1st Trans Woman Elected in Montana Has Life-Affirming Moment With Flight Attendant

Zooey Zephyr
Zooey Zephyr, left, and the flight attendant who touched her heart.Zooey Zephyr

Zooey Zephyr rode a history-making rainbow wave to become the first trans woman elected in Montana.

The significance of what she'd accomplished fully hit home for Zooey Zephyr after her plane touched down on election night. 

She and a group of supporters turned their cellphones back on and saw that Zephyr, an openly trans woman in a very conservative state, had overwhelmingly won Montana's 100th state house district.

She whooped and hollered and hugged the members of her group. And then a flight attendant approached and asked what all the fuss was about.

"I'm going to be the first trans woman to hold public office in Montana," Zephyr told the woman, who then began to cry. And in that moment, Zephyr realized everything she had endured on her way to becoming her true self had been worth every second.

"My son is trans," the flight attendant said. And then she began to explain how hard it had been for her child to feel accepted.

"She just starts crying, and then I start crying," Zephyr told Inside Edition Digital. "Can I hug you?" the woman asked. "And she started telling me about what it was like having a trans son in America today."

The two stood at the back of the plane and shared snippets of their souls.

"She showed me photos of her son," including a snap of the two of them in Paris. They exchanged phone numbers. Zephyr posted a selfie of them on Twitter.

The mom "began to tell me about all the joys/fears that had come with his transition. How much happier and healthier he is now. I got to see pictures of her & her son in Paris, the two of them beaming with joy," Zephyr wrote on the social media site.

"She also talked about how scary the world was, but how this moment gave her hope. Then we took a selfie & cried," the representative-elect said.

Zephyr, 33, is a longtime activist for LGBTQ  rights, and works for the University of Montana. She came out about four years ago and is making Montana history along with SJ Howell, the first nonbinary member elected to the state House.

For the LGBTQ community, there was even more to celebrate. The 2022 midterm elections also made U.S. history with the greatest number of races won by community members across the country.

At least 340 candidates were victorious, beating the prior record of 336 in 2020.

The U.S. elected its first openly lesbian governors — Tina Kotek in Oregon and Maura Healey in Massachusetts. Erick Russell became the first Black LGBTQ person elected to Connecticut office. James Roesener in New Hampshire became the first trans man elected to a state legislature.

In a crucial contest where the GOP's "red wave" didn't happen, LGTBQ candidates rode a "rainbow wave" and crashed the "lavender ceiling," advocates said.

"There are two things that come to mind," Zephyr said about the poll results. "LGTBQ people, trans people, we are loved and accepted by our communities. We're never far away from someone who loves us dearly. The conservative attempt to focus so heavily on us backfired," she said.

Her home state saw plenty of efforts to ostracize the community, from Montana officials declaring trans people could not change the sex noted on their birth certificates to banning transgender athletes from competing in women's collegiate sports.

Both efforts have been halted by judicial orders.

"It's a losing strategy to attack people who are loved by their communities," Zephyr said. "We're your family, your neighbors, your colleagues. Even 30,000 feet in the air, you're never far from someone who cares about us."

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