Althea Garrison

Althea Garrison (born October 7, 1940)[1] is an independent American politician from Boston, Massachusetts, who served on the Boston City Council as an at-large councilor.

Althea Garrison
Member of the Boston City Council
In office
January 9, 2019 – January 6, 2020
Preceded byAyanna Pressley
Succeeded byJulia Mejia
Member of the
Massachusetts House of Representatives
from the 5th Suffolk District
In office
Preceded byNelson Merced
Succeeded byCharlotte Golar Richie
Personal details
A. C. Garson

(1940-10-07) October 7, 1940 (age 80)
Hahira, Georgia
Political partyIndependent (1988, 2000, 2008, 2012–present)
Democratic (1982–1986, 1998–1999, 2010–2012)
Republican (1990–1996, 2002–2006)
ResidenceDorchester, Boston, Massachusetts
Alma materSuffolk University
Lesley College
Harvard University
Newbury Junior College
OccupationHuman Resources

Garrison was elected as a Republican to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1992 and served one term from 1993 to 1995. Both before and after Garrison's successful bid for office, she has run unsuccessfully in multiple elections for the state legislature and Boston City Council, as a Republican, Democrat, or independent, which has resulted in her being described in the media as a "perennial candidate".[2][3] Garrison is also known as the first transgender person to be elected to a state legislature in the United States.[4][5] She was outed against her will by the Boston Herald after her election in 1992.[6]

Garrison later served as an at-large member of the Boston City Council from January 2019 to January 2020 due to a vacancy left by Ayanna Pressley's election to the United States House of Representatives. Because Garrison was the next-place finisher in the 2017 Boston City Council election, she was eligible to take office per City Council rules.[7] She was not re-elected in November 2019.[8]


Garrison was formerly known by the name A. C. Garson.[9][10] Born in Hahira, Georgia[1][10] as the youngest of seven children,[11] Garrison attended Hahira High School there.[1] Garrison moved to Boston to attend beauty school,[10] but went on to enroll in Newbury Junior College and received an associate degree there.[1][10] Garrison later received a B.S. degree in administration from Suffolk University, an M.S. degree in management from Lesley College, and a certificate in special studies in administration and management from Harvard University.[1][12]

According to records in the Suffolk County Probate Court, Garrison petitioned for a name change from A. C. Garson to Althea Garrison in 1976.[13] The petition stated that the name Althea Garrison "is consistent with petitioner's appearance and medical condition and is the name by which he [sic] will be known in the future."[13][14]

Besides her one term in the Massachusetts House, Garrison has worked as a clerk in human resources for the Massachusetts state comptroller's office, where she used her vacation time to run for office.[11] She served for four years on the Metropolitan Area Planning Council.[15]

Political careerEdit

Early yearsEdit

In 1982 and 1986, Garrison ran unsuccessfully for the Massachusetts House of Representatives as a Democrat.[16] She ran unsuccessfully for Boston City Council in 1983, 1985, 1987, 1989, and 1991. During the 1991 campaign, the Boston Herald noted that she had run for office nine times,[17] although Garrison herself later described the race as her 10th or 11th bid for office.[18] In the 1991 race, Garrison finished in third place in the District 7 preliminary election.[19]

Massachusetts HouseEdit

In 1992, Garrison ran successfully for the 5th Suffolk district in the Massachusetts House, representing the Dorchester and Roxbury areas of Boston. Garrison's 1992 election to the legislature was made possible in part by the fact that she challenged some of the signatures that the then-incumbent representative, Nelson Merced, had submitted to qualify for the Democratic primary ballot. Her challenge was successful and meant that Garrison did not have to run against an incumbent in the general election.[9] In the general election, Garrison defeated Democratic candidate Irene Roman, 2,451 votes to 2,014.[20]

The fact that Garrison had been formerly known as a male was not widely publicized until shortly after she was elected to the legislature.[9][13] When the Boston Herald asked whether she was a man, Garrison denied it and ended the conversation when asked about her past, including her name change.[13][6]

In the Massachusetts House, Garrison consistently voted in favor of labor unions, resulting in her being endorsed for re-election by the Massachusetts AFL-CIO[21] and eight unions.[16] On many votes, she voted with the Democrats in the legislature rather than with the Republicans.[16] However, she opposed same-sex marriage and abortion.[6]

Garrison was defeated in her 1994 bid for re-election by Democratic candidate Charlotte Golar Richie by a margin of 2,108 votes to 1,718.[22]

Unsuccessful bids for officeEdit

Garrison ran for office at least 32 times,[11] all but one unsuccessfully, including:

Boston City CouncilEdit

Garrison took the at-large seat of former councillor Ayanna Pressley on the Boston City Council, as Pressley left the City Council following her November 2018 election to Congress from Massachusetts's 7th congressional district.[33] City rules require that vacancies for the at-large council seats are filled by the next-placed candidate in the previous election, which was Garrison in November 2017.[34] Garrison was sworn in on January 9, 2019.[35] Garrison was a candidate for re-election in the November 2019 election, but finished seventh in the general election field of eight candidates.[36]

See alsoEdit

  • Stacie Laughton, first out transgender person to be elected to state legislature (but resigned before being sworn in)
  • Danica Roem, first out transgender person to be elected and serve in a state legislature


  1. ^ a b c d e O'Neill, Edward B.; MacQueen, Robert E. (1993). 1993-1994 Public Officers of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Boston: General Court of Massachusetts. p. 132. Retrieved October 20, 2010.
  2. ^ Larocque, Marc (February 3, 2008). "On primary day, they'll elect to not vote". The Boston Globe. Retrieved October 20, 2010.
  3. ^ Gintautus, Dumcius (October 7, 2010). "Reporter's Notebook: An endorsement, and another Fifth Suffolk write-in campaign". Dorchester Reporter. Retrieved October 20, 2010.
  4. ^ Eaklor, Vicki L. (2008). Queer America: A GLBT History of the 20th Century. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press. p. 212. ISBN 978-0-313-33749-9. Retrieved October 20, 2010. The nineties also saw the first openly transgender person in a state office, Althea Garrison, elected in 1992 but serving only one term in Massachusetts' House.
  5. ^ Haider-Markel, Donald P. (2010). Out and Running: Gay and Lesbian Candidates, Elections, and Policy Representation. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press. p. 86. ISBN 978-1-58901-699-6. Retrieved October 20, 2010.
  6. ^ a b c Osberg, Molly (November 8, 2017). "The Tragic Story of Althea Garrison, the First Trans Person to Hold State Office in America". Splinter. Retrieved January 19, 2018.
  7. ^ Valencia, Milton (September 6, 2018). "Finally, Althea Garrison will be a city councilor". The Boston Globe. Retrieved December 20, 2018.
  8. ^ "City of Boston - Unofficial Results - UPDATED November 5, 2019 - Municipal Election" (PDF). City of Boston. November 13, 2019. Retrieved November 29, 2019.
  9. ^ a b c Reilly, Adam (September 23, 2005). "The compulsive candidate: What makes Althea Garrison run?". The Boston Phoenix. Archived from the original on February 5, 2010. Retrieved October 20, 2010.
  10. ^ a b c d Schweitzer, Sarah (September 21, 2001). "Garrison Undeterred by Long Odds". The Boston Globe. p. B1. Retrieved October 20, 2010.
  11. ^ a b c Levenson, Michael (January 10, 2019). "Althea Garrison finally takes her seat on the Boston City Council - The Boston Globe". Boston Globe. Retrieved January 10, 2019.
  12. ^ "Race for City Council: Althea Garrison". The Boston Globe. September 4, 1999. p. B2.
  13. ^ a b c d Fehrnstrom, Eric (November 5, 1992). "New state rep leaves questions about past life unanswered". The Boston Herald. p. 29.
  14. ^ Woodlief, Wayne (May 27, 1999). "Lawton best choice in 5th District race". The Boston Herald. p. 35. Retrieved October 20, 2010.
  15. ^ a b Talcott, Sasha (October 27, 2003). "Activist Chases an Elusive Dream: Quest Continues for Public Office". The Boston Globe. p. B2.
  16. ^ a b c Kenney, Michael (October 9, 1994). "Garrison hopes to show win no fluke: Faces tough fight from Golar Richie to keep 5th Suffolk seat". The Boston Globe. p. 1.
  17. ^ Estes, Andrea (September 18, 1991). "Most talked about pol in Dist. 7 running a different race". Boston Herald. p. 10.
  18. ^ Carr, Howie (October 9, 1991). "Crop of young up-&-coming pols keep tradition alive". Boston Herald. p. 12.
  19. ^ Estes, Andrea (September 25, 1991). "Perennial Owens wins chance at Bolling seat". Boston Herald. p. 8.
  20. ^ Brown, Laura (November 5, 1992). "Hub voters break tradition & elect Republican state rep". Boston Herald. p. 10.
  21. ^ "Rumors don't undermine Garrison's power". Boston Herald. August 15, 1994. p. 14.
  22. ^ Kenney, Michael (November 13, 1994). "'95's new looks for Beacon Hill". The Boston Globe. p. 4.
  23. ^ Jonas, Michael (October 15, 2000). "Incumbents Taking Nothing for Granted". The Boston Globe. p. 2.
  24. ^ Ebbert, Stephanie; Schweitzer, Sarah (September 26, 2001). "Menino Easily Wins Preliminary: Davis-Mullen Takes 22.5 Percent in Low Turnout". The Boston Globe. p. B1.
  25. ^ Tangney, Chris (February 13, 2002). "Hart Wins Election to Senate in Landslide". The Boston Globe. p. B12.
  26. ^ Rothstein, Kevin (September 27, 2005). "City Hall Showdown: Today's preliminary vote will trim council field". Boston Herald. p. 4.
  27. ^ McNamara, Eileen (September 10, 2006). "It's Time for the Truth". The Boston Globe. p. B1.
  28. ^ "Democratic Primary Results, 09/14/2010 State Primary" (PDF). Massachusetts Elections Division. p. 25. Retrieved October 20, 2010.
  29. ^ Brown, Bridgit (February 10, 2011). "District 7 campaign pulls crowded field". The Bay State Banner. Boston. Archived from the original on July 7, 2011. Retrieved February 13, 2011.
  30. ^ "City of Boston Special Preliminary Municipal Election - February 15, 2011 City Councillor District 7" (PDF). City of Boston Election Department. 2011. Retrieved July 25, 2011.
  31. ^ "PD43+ » 2018 State Representative General Election 5th Suffolk District". PD43+. Retrieved January 7, 2019.
  32. ^
  33. ^ "Congresswoman-Elect Ayanna Pressley, the City Council will Miss You!". December 7, 2018. Retrieved January 3, 2019.
  34. ^ "Finally, Althea Garrison will be a city councillor". Boston Globe. September 6, 2018. Retrieved September 6, 2018.
  35. ^ "Althea Garrison". Retrieved January 12, 2019.
  36. ^ "BOSTON MUNICIPAL ELECTION NOVEMBER 2019". Retrieved November 5, 2019.

Further readingEdit

Massachusetts House of Representatives
Preceded by
Nelson Merced
Member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives
from the 5th Suffolk district

Succeeded by
Charlotte Golar Richie
Political offices
Preceded by
Ayanna Pressley
Member At-Large of the Boston City Council