As proud as she is about being the first openly intersex person elected to public office in the United States — in a Republican-leaning area of New Jersey, no less — Betsy Driver wants to be clear about one thing: That’s not why she ran. “That’s just one of those neat little trivia questions,” Driver says. “It’s really about loving your community, wanting to do the right thing in your community and wanting your community to succeed.”
Nevertheless, Driver, the mayor of Flemington, a Garden State borough about 60 miles from Manhattan, is being honored for her achievement by Heritage of Pride as a 2019 community hero, and will participate in Sunday’s historic 50th New York City Pride March. “It’s very exciting, and I’m very honored by it,” Driver said. Driver, 54, a former journalist, was elected in November after two years on the council in the borough, where she has lived since 2007 with her wife and two teenage sons.
When Driver decided to run for council in 2017, she heard that the people she was running against were going to make her sexuality an issue right before the election. So, she decided to speak for herself. She wrote an article about Intersex Awareness Day and community organizing, and posted it on her campaign Facebook page. She explained intersex as being born with some non-standard biological characteristics that are considered “female” and others that are considered “male.”
“I framed it around the courage to not be afraid to stand up and do the right thing even when other people may not want to hear about it,” she said. “And I think it helped.” Since then, Driver said, it has never been an issue. “Nobody has ever asked me about it,” Driver said. “I think once they understand what it is, they realize that it’s a part of how someone is born. When you talk to people about what happens to children born with an intersex variation and the nonconsensual surgeries, they tend to be pretty horrified by it. I think there’s a lot of respect out there for anyone who is trying to change that.
“I always felt growing up as a child my body was very different,” Driver added. “And good or bad, my parents did a wonderful job trying to make me feel as normal as possible. It wasn’t until I started to date that I realized I was different.”