In this year’s United States election, a record number of people from the LGBTQ+ community ran for elected positions in state and local governments, and many of them won.
This points to a gradual move to more diverse political representation and as a result, increasingly inclusive politics.
As results of the election are coming in, we are witnessing many firsts for the LGBTQ+ community: first openly gay Black men elected to Congress; first trans state senator in the United States; first ever openly bisexual mayor; first openly LGBTQ+ members of state legislatures in states such as Florida, Kansas, Georgia, and Vermont; first openly queer Native American Congresswoman… The list goes on.
Lane Deamant, a second-year Politics student at the University of Edinburgh who is from the United States, shared with The Student that “…it was really a breath of fresh air to see how many queer people were elected.”
They added that “To see Mauree Turner become the first non-binary legislator for Oklahoma was absolutely amazing; as a non-binary person it means the world to see them win an election decisively!”
Mauree Turner won a seat in the Oklahoma House of Representatives with more than 70 per cent of the total votes, becoming the first out non-binary state lawmaker in the United States and first Muslim member of the Oklahoma legislature.
Their election campaign focused on criminal justice reform, expanding health insurance for people with limited income, and raising the state’s minimum wage.
In another historic win, Stephanie Byers became the first openly transgender lawmaker in Kansas, an otherwise conservative, red state where (on the same ballots) 56.6 per cent voted for Donald Trump.
Byers joins hundreds of other queer people who secured elected positions, not only in the generally progressive coastal and metropolitan areas, but in more conservative states as well.
It is important to note that these huge wins did not appear out of thin air but are the result of decades of activism and organizing.
Moreover, the fight for more inclusive politics is by no means over, especially because there have been cases of tokenistic representation in politics.
In the same election, more than 69 million Americans voted for a presidential candidate who has in the past been openly homophobic and transphobic.
While we might recognize that this election does not solve the many issues that the LGBTQ+ community faces, perhaps it still gives us a good reason for celebration.
Ritchie Torres, who has just been elected one of two first openly gay Black Congressmen, stated in an interview that “We are witnessing a tectonic shift. We’re witnessing the collapse of politics as an old heterosexual white males’ club.
“The new generation of elected officials is every bit as diverse and dynamic as America itself.”
The increasing number of queer public officials in recent years has been dubbed the “Rainbow Wave”.
When we think of waves, we imagine them as coming and going.
However, the results of this year’s election suggest that the Rainbow Wave is here, queer, and likely to stay.
Image: Benson Kua via Wikipedia