Representation matters. It matters everywhere, from the actors people see in movies to the teachers who impart knowledge to the politicians who determine the laws that shape our lives. The results can be overwhelmingly beneficial, helping underrepresented people to connect with each other and reducing negative stereotypes.
Few people can understand the aforementioned benefits better than LGBTQ+ individuals. However, this November, our demographic will have a chance to enjoy another advantage: having more LGBTQ+ people in political offices than ever, thereby strengthening the community’s position in the United States.
The Victory Institute recently released “Pride & Progress” which recounts the history of LGBTQ+ political power in the United States. The timeline shows how far the LGBTQ+ community has come in the past few decades—and, unfortunately, how much further we have to go (especially regarding those at intersections of race and gender identity, for example).
Just a few of the political highlights/lowlights covered include the Lavender Scare (which resulted in thousands of actual and perceived LGBTQ+ people being removed from military and civil service); Kathy Kozachenko becoming the first out LGBTQ+ person to win public office; the election of Harvey Milk in San Francisco; the election of Tammy Baldwin to Congress; Ron Oden becoming the country’s first Black gay mayor; Pete Buttigieg becoming the U.S. secretary of transportation (and, once, a leading presidential candidate); and, of course, the Stonewall Uprising.
Having LGBTQ+ lawmakers, judges and other political leaders is important in several ways. LGBTQ+ officials provide perspectives that can help their straight counterparts understand (and vote for/against) certain measures and policies. They can also be role models for younger individuals with political aspirations or voters who may admire them.
Here’s one sobering fact: Recently, hundreds of anti-LGBTQ+ measures have been considered (and, in some cases, passed) throughout the country. Another such fact is that, according to the LGBTQ Victory Fund, 35,854 more LGBTQ+ public servants need to be elected to adequately achieve fair governmental representation—and increased visibility is needed to fight the deluge of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation engulfing this nation.
Everybody deserves a seat at the proverbial table—and LGBTQ+ people have earned their place, even though we know those spots won’t just be given. But, as one-time presidential candidate Shirley Chisholm said, “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.”
Andrew Davis is the executive editor of Windy City Times.