Editor's note: This article has been updated to include comments from an additional Anna councilor.
Janine Johnson, formally known has John Johnson, chairs the board of the Anna Planning and Zoning Commission. On Monday, after the monthly meeting Johnson announced to board members and city staff that she is transgender.
“I came out to almost the whole world in 2004, but I got involved with working with the city as male because my legal name is still male and my gender marker is still male,” Johnson said.
Johnson was born a male, but identifies as a woman. She said she has always felt like a woman even as a child. In 2004, she began living her life as woman, but in 2013 when she decided to run for a commissioner position on the P&Z she ran as a man because her name was still legally John.
“It really wasn’t too much of a problem because you only do it (meet for the commission) once a month,” she said.
For nearly four years, Johnson put on gender-neutral clothing for the meetings, such as slacks or pants and left her wig and makeup at home. She attended the meetings as John, the name she was given at birth.
“But still I always felt that I would be much more comfortable if everybody knew and if I could go to the meetings as who I really am,” she said.
It took years for her to decide to finally come out a second time, this time not to friends or family but to the people she worked with at the city.
“My main reason for doing it was that I had decided that I wanted to begin participating in the commission work as who I really am, and I didn’t want to spring it on them by walking in next month in a dress,” Johnson said.
Recently the mayor of New Hope, Jess Herbst, announced she is transgender. When Johnson heard about this she said it inspired her.
Johnson said the Texas Senate Bill 6, also known as the Texas Bathroom Bill, was another factor in her decision to announce herself to the city.
On Tuesday, committee hearings got underway at the State Capitol regarding the bill, which would require transgender individuals to use bathrooms and locker rooms in schools and other government buildings that match their biological sex regardless of how they identify themselves.
Proponents of the bill say granting this privacy helps women and children feel safer from potential predators.
“I view Senate Bill 6 as being a horribly bigoted and hateful and hurtful attempt at legislation,” Johnson said.
The bill is nothing more than a solution looking for a problem, she said.
“My philosophy in advocacy has always been that it’s much more difficult to hate somebody you know than to hate a stereotype of somebody you don’t know,” Johnson said.
Overall Johnson said feedback from her announcement has been positive. Fellow board members haven’t made a big deal of the announcement.
“The response that I got last night was such that my announcement was essentially a non-event,” she said.
City councilman Justin Burr served on the P&Z for two years alongside Johnson, and said the announcement does not matter from a city standpoint.
“I don’t really care as long as he’s performing his duties that he’s supposed to perform in that position for the city,” Burr said.
Burr went on to say that he does not think the commission is the proper platform for social issues, but can respect Johnson’s wish to be referred to in feminine pronouns and in a feminine name.
“I see Anna as a very inclusive place,” Burr said. “I think the people in Anna, that I interact with on a regular basis, are friendly and accepting, and even if somebody doesn’t agree with something I think we can still respect them as a human being and refer to them in the matter of which they wish.”
Councilor Rene Martinez said he admired Johnson's courage.
"We are all equal regardless of our gender and I applaud Janine Johnson for having the courage to publicly announce that she is transgender," Martinez said in an email.
Other councilors did not respond to requests for comment, except for councilor Kenneth Pelham who responded in an email: "Someone's sexual orientation means nothing to me. It's their life. I will not comment on anything that I hear about second hand."
In the end Johnson wants people to know that she plans to continue serving on the commission for as long as possible.
“Transgender people are just like everybody else,” she said. “We’re not monsters or weirdos or whatever.”