Tarrence Robertson-Bayless of St. Paul knows what it is to take a risk.
He knew when he enlisted in the army in 2005, back when he went by Tara and answered to the pronouns “she” and “her.” He knew when he was first deployed to Afghanistan, when, in his own words, “lives were literally at stake” in missions he led.
He knew when he underwent gender reassignment surgery in 2016, and had to switch his name from Tara to Tarrence on his military records as soon as possible, because his commanding officer was “afraid something might happen” to him.
And he knew when he went on the record about President Donald Trump’s cryptic series of tweets in 2017 – in which he swore to ban transgender people from serving in the military.
Robertson-Bayless told multiple news outlets that it didn’t seem right for Trump to call people like him a “burden” when they’ve already sacrificed so much in order to serve their country.
“I’ve given up so much in my life to be a contributing member of the military, and I’m very, very good at my job,” he told Kare 11.
It should surprise no one that these days, Robertson-Bayless is taking risks again. He’s currently deployed to the Middle East with Minnesota’s 34th Infantry Division. But he’s also sticking his neck out closer to home by running for the St. Paul City Council’s Ward 4 seat. He wouldn't be the first openly trans person to run for the council -- Susan Kimberly made a bid for reelection after transitioning in the early '90s -- but if he's elected, he’ll be the first to serve there.
Of course, being busy serving his country halfway across the world, he’s precluded from actively engaging in his campaign at the moment. So, a team of supporters -- led by campaign manager Meline Juarez -- is getting his name out there until he returns.
“He’s going to be a phenomenal candidate,” she says – “highly intelligent,” “personable,” and endowed with a history of speaking his mind.
Robertson-Bayless’ platform is still coming into focus, but is generally aimed at reducing disparities among St. Paulites. He wants to increase the number of teachers of color in the city’s schools, to increase accessibility to public transportation for people with disabilities, and to end housing discrimination and expand incentives for first-time homebuyers.
“Terrance has remained an outspoken advocate on human rights,” Juarez says. “And he has the background and experience not to be a political puppet.”
When he gets back home this spring, he’ll be able to tell you that himself.