RAPID CITY — Marla Murphy says she still gets anxious every time she walks up to a voter’s front door.
That pit-of-her-stomach, deep-seated worry, greets her at night, too, a cumulative effect of all the wondering.
‘‘You never know,’’ Murphy said. ‘‘When I meet someone, I’m always analyzing, always looking, always almost jumping on every word. Are they open? Are they free? Are they spouting something that’s not fair?’’
It has been more than five years since Murphy came out as transgendered, legally changing her name from ‘‘Thomas’’ to ‘‘Marla’’ while a member of the Rapid City Council, and began living as a woman.
The fear hasn’t gone away.
She said that every day she is scared to death because of so-called groups making claims about her that are nowhere near the truth.
But Murphy, who said she received threats of recall and worse while transitioning to the female gender, is back in the public eye as a candidate for the Ward 2 council seat previously held by Mayor Sam Kooiker.
More than anything, she said, after years retreating to the safety of her own home, she is ready to find out whether Rapid City has changed.
‘‘I’m just wondering whether it’s true or not,’’ she said. ‘‘If it’s safe to walk out of my house, if I am accepted, it means maybe Rapid City has grown and maybe there is hope for America in a Midwestern Rapid City kind of state.’’
Murphy, 55, was born in Arkansas, the son of an Army man. During the early years, the family moved a lot, living in Seattle and Germany before settling in Lowell, Mass.
Murphy went into the service in 1978, choosing the U.S. Air Force for a career. After 11 years at Loring Air Force Base in Maine, Murphy was transferred to Ellsworth Air Force Base and spent 11 years stationed there before retiring in 2000 after 22 years of service.
Having bought a home in Rapid City, Murphy decided to stay in the Black Hills after retirement and that same year was appointed to a vacancy on the Rapid City Council. Murphy held that position until 2005.
‘‘I used to always consider myself some kind of off-beat,’’ Murphy said. ‘‘Some of my fears and anxiety that I have today are probably the same fears and anxiety I had when I was fighting in the closet — no one could see, I was always looking and seeing and hearing, trying to hide. All those things growing up and hiding, now it’s out there.’’
Not that Murphy tries to hide the fact that she used to go by the name Tom.
In preparation for a recent meeting to discuss her candidacy, she brought with her a thick packet of Air Force commendations and certifications, college degrees and letters of appreciation from agencies including the American Red Cross and Internal Revenue Service.
All but a few had been issued to Thomas W. Murphy.
And while she won’t be surprised if her opponents in the Ward 2 special election on Sept. 13 make her personal story an issue, she said she doesn’t understand why it is relevant.
‘‘Why should it be an issue?’’ Murphy said. ‘‘My brain is the same. Who I am is the same. It hasn’t changed. My thought processes are the same.’’
Murphy described her decision to transition emotionally as, ‘‘the hardest thing I ever did.’’
‘‘But,’’ she said in the next breath, ‘‘it was the most liberating thing I could do, because I felt good inside.’’