The 2022 midterm elections were a watershed moment for the LGBTQ community, with numerous members seeking and winning votes.
According to a recent tally, more than 340 LGBTQ candidates prevailed in their elections, breaking the previous high of 336 victories set in 2020. In addition, the most openly LGBTQ candidates have ever run for office in a general election in the United States, with over 678. Positive ripples spread around the nation due to the substantial non-binary candidate turnout. A group that supports the LGBTQ community called Victory Fund expressed its pleasure at the high level of political participation.
Victory Fund was set up in 1991. It has now committed its support to LGBTQ candidates seeking public office. The group uses its resources to teach candidates about fundraising and connect them with a large network. This allows them to shape their image and learn from elected LGBTQ candidates. According to Sean Meloy, the company’s Vice President of Political Programs, the group financed and backed over 500 candidates in the 2022 elections.
“Normally, when someone gets in [office], they don’t pull the ladder up after. Instead, they’re going to say, ‘Hey, who’s next? Who’s going to take over for me? Who else can I get to join me?’ So I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we have more LGBTQ candidates running than ever at the same time we have the most LGBTQ people in the office,” he said.
“People of color, trans people and nonbinary people. And in places where we need those voices, and the mere fact that an LGBTQ person steps forward to run – and then hopefully win – helps change hearts and minds,” Meloy added.
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Historic firsts for the LGBTQ community
During the midterm elections, the neighborhood experienced many firsts. For instance, Tina Kotek from Oregon and Maura Healey from Massachusetts were elected by the US electorate as the country’s first openly lesbian candidates.
The first Black LGBTQ candidate in Connecticut was elected to a seat for the first time in US history. James Roesener, who prevailed in New Hampshire, later became the first transgender person to be chosen to a state legislature in the US. As the first openly transgender person to win a state legislature, Zooey Sephyr also made history.
“I always hesitate to call an election historic, because the attacks on human rights, education, healthcare, public lands, unions, etc. feel perpetual. However, every election requires our attention because there is always something important worth fighting for, and if we fail to fight to our fullest, there are always groups waiting to strip our rights away,” Sephyr said.
“I think, given how attacks on LGBTQ people have ramped up over the last year has served as a reminder that LGBTQ people need to be in the room where the laws are being written. For example, 300+ anti-LGBTQ pieces of legislation were introduced last year, over half of which targeted trans people specifically,” she added.
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The future for the community
Victory Fund went on to say that the struggle is far from done. For example, to achieve equal participation in the political scene, the United States requires around 35,000 additional LGBTQ officials. On the other hand, Meloy remains optimistic about this potential, pointing out that more Millenials and GenZs identify as community members.
“I think it shows that it’s possible, right? And so many underrepresented people in government – women, young people, people of color, LGBTQ people, disabled people – they’re always told, ‘Oh, you can’t do it […] because it hasn’t been done. So breaking that barrier makes that argument – ‘No.’ Which is a huge starting point,” he said.
Meloy also expressed confidence that gender does not hamper anyone from serving the people at large. In fact, Meloy said that winning LGBTQ candidates are highly qualified individuals.
“We intersect with every single other community. So we have millennials, we have scientists, we have union members, we have teachers, and we’ve got folks from every age bracket and every demographic.”
“They have to know when to, you know when it’s safe for them to be themselves in so many places. So I think that that brings an understanding of their community, and I also think it brings a level of empathy for other folks who have been forgotten or actively attacked by the government.”
Fortunately, there have been a growing number of people and states that reject anti-LGBTQ remarks. Many voters in recent polls are openly supporting non-binary candidates. Erin Reed, a queer legislator, said it is refreshing to know that there is a pragmatic shift in thinking among people that are not grounded on hate and prejudice against other genders.
“The loss of anti-transgender candidates from the school board level up to the state level sends a clear message that basing your candidacy on hate does is not a winning strategy. So many candidates thought they could rely on beating up on transgender people for an easy victory and they left election night disappointed,” Reed said.
“I anticipate 2023 will be the worst year for anti-trans legislation ever. But it does send a clear message that voters are not moved by anti-trans laws.”