by: Angela Keen
(KHNL) - Kim Coco Iwamoto is being called the nation's highest elected office holder, who also happens to be transgendered. In her first televised interview since the election, Iwamoto speaks exclusively to KHNL's Angela Keen on family, life and her future.
Kim Coco Iwamoto is open about being transgendered with those who know her. But during her campaign, she says the issue never came up publicly.
She says she chose to focus on the issues around her Board of Education campaign, instead of her gender.
In her exclusive interview with KHNL, Iwamoto opens up and talks with us about the issue. However, she stresses her main goal is to keep the focus on Hawaii's keiki. Kim Coco Iwamoto, or Kim Coco as her friends know her, never thought her story would gain so much national attention.
"I had no clue actually. I had no clue that it would be so noteworthy. I suppose its an honor to be recognized, but then again the greater honor for me is serving Hawaii and serving Hawaii's children," Iwamoto says.
Iwamoto is making headlines all over the world as America's highest ranking transgendered person to hold office.
The media has been unrelenting, but she says she wants to stay focused on her goals of helping improve the public school system.
"It's been overwhelming to get all of this attention for that aspect. But, if I can have the opportunity to talk about education, to talk about how as a community and as family members we can support our children, then I think that is great," she says.
Kim Coco Iwamoto is her birth name. All of her family members have supported her, including her mother. Unfortunately, Iwamoto's mom passed away in August just as she started her campaign.
"My mother was a huge active participant for my education. She was a very good role model on how to support our children. I think that is the roll that I am trying to fulfill, being an advocate for education. Also, my father has been very supportive and my brothers have been very supportive," she says.
While some voters say they are disappointed they did not know about her gender, Iwamoto says she doesn't feel it's an issue. Her biggest concern is that people will get side tracked.
"I wanted to be on the Board of Education because I wanted to advocate for students. This was never about me as an individual. Its always been about me and how I can serve the community, Iwamoto says."
Iwamoto is also a civil right's attorney, foster parent and now, Board of Education member. She hopes she can make a difference for Hawaii's families, just like her parents have helped her through all of her challenges in life.
Kim Coco is well known with the Board of Education. Over the years, she's lobbied for student safety issues.