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Pete Salas Wants to Be America’s First Intersex State Lawmaker

Pete Salas Wants to Be America’s First Intersex State Lawmaker

He wants to decriminalize sex work, promote community gardens, and tackle nuclear power.

Pete Salas is the first intersex person in history to run for a seat in the Texas Legislature and could also be the first intersex candidate in the United States to be elected at the statewide level.

Texas District 126 is a rural, largely unincorporated district north of Houston and currently represented in Austin by Republican Sam Harless. The seat is somewhat dynastic, having been previously held by Patricia Harless, his wife, for a decade prior. It would be quite a shift if the seat flipped to Salas -- who is Latino, Libertarian, intersex, and trans.

"I haven't faced any backlash yet," Salas told the Houston LGBTQ+ magazine Outsmart. "Once people talk to me and hear my ideas, they look past what I am."

Salas, whose parents are from Mexico, grew up in Houston. He lives close to extended family and has a particular interest in history. He currently works as a graphic designer, with a background in natural science and the fuel industry.

His political platform, meanwhile, is difficult to pin down to a particular party or ideology. Among his core issues are addressing homelessness, reducing dependence on fossil fuel, lowering property taxes, and making local roads safer, following a highway crash that severely injured his head and neck. He also seeks to decriminalize cannabis and sex work.

But so far, specifics are few. On his campaign site, Salas has a section entitled "Ideas for the State," which includes bullet points like "local agriculture" and "community gardens." He calls to "replace all plastics with hemp-based material by 2024," but there are no details or plans yet associated with any of those points.

"I think it's important to get out and talk to constituents and listen to them," Salas told Outsmart. "They may actually have a solution to a problem you haven't thought of."

One issue that hasn't come up much in his nascent campaigning is gender expression and sexuality, topics that often roil the Texas statehouse. For years, Texas legislators have weighed transphobic bathroom bills, challenges to marriage equality, and "turn away the gays" legislation. Last year the legislature passed a "Save Chick-fil-A" bill aimed at protecting its right to donate to anti-LGBTQ+ organizations.

And while Salas does attend events like the Gender Infinity Conference, he says the rights of intersex, trans, and nonbinary people are just not a priority for his district. Instead he's focused on issues around personal autonomy, decentralized power, and technology that does not yet exist.

"Two years ago I joined the Libertarian Party," Salas said. "I like the platform -- nonaggression, being autonomous, and having more freedom."

So far, his campaign has no staff and only a handful of volunteers comprised of family and friends who volunteer. If elected, he would be the first intersex person in the country to serve in a state legislature. Other intersex elected officials in the U.S. include Betsy Driver, the mayor of Flemington, New Jersey, and Kathy Ottersten, an assembly member for Fairbanks North Star Borough.

The election is on November 3, 2020.

RELATED | Texas May Soon Legalize Discrimination Against LGBTQ+ People

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