Here in New York City, we are beginning our local election cycle. Candidates are just beginning to declare themselves for city council, and one in particular—Mel Wymore—has grabbed our interest here at Velvetpark.
Mel is running for city council in District 6, on the Upper West Side. He's also transgender, the first openly trans* candidate for NYC city council and one of very few trans* people to ever run for office nationwide. He has already appeared on Melissa Harris-Perry's show on MSNBC and LGBT newspapers around the country.
It's a big deal. There are only a handful of trans elected officials around the United States, or even the world; if elected, Mel would be the first transgender city councilmember. We here at VP were grateful for the chance to interview him via email and get to know a little more about his work.
We all know that it can be hard to have one part of your identity eclipse everything else about you - and coverage of Mel's candidacy has certainly, so far, focused on his identity as a transgender man. It's worth remembering: being LGBT does not, in fact, say anything further about a candidate's politics, or what they will do once in office. Way more important: what a candidate actually stands for, and with whom they ally themselves.
Let's get to know Mel a little better, shall we?
Tell us a little about yourself. Who are you and what brought you here?
I’m a long-time resident and advocate of the Upper West Side. I moved to NYC in 1988, mainly to start a family. I'm a passionate parent, a systems engineer, an entrepreneur, and a relentless community builder.
Why are you running for city council now?
Running for City Council is a natural progression of more than two decades developing community assets. I love bringing people together (especially across divides) to produce tangible results—youth programs, senior care, affordable housing, new parks. I want to manifest diversity, equality, and sustainable living into the fabric of our everyday lives.
For our readers who live in New York, but not on the Upper West Side, what are your biggest priorities citywide?
As the Chair of Community Board 7, I shifted our focus from short-term reactions to long-term solutions. What do we want to see in decades ahead? What are our priorities as a community? We built the framework, then negotiated powerful outcomes—a new school, support for local businesses, safer