Want to look at races outside of the Northeast? Excellent. First, we can chat about an enormous win coming out of Kansas, where Stephanie Byers, a member of Chickasaw Nation, became the first openly transgender member of the Kansas state legislature, as well as the first openly transgender person of color elected to a state legislature. Not just to the Kansas state legislature, but any state legislature. Again: History.
Some good news came out of Florida, too. Shevrin Jones was just elected to become Florida’s first openly LGBTQ state senator. Not long after his win, Jones was joined by a candidate for the New York state senate, Jabari Brisport. And don’t forget about Michele Rayner-Goolsby, who also carried an important victory home in Florida. Rayner-Goolsby has become the first openly LGBTQ Black woman elected to the House of Representatives in Florida.
Colorado elected its first openly bisexual candidate to the state legislature in David Ortiz. Notably, Ortiz is also the state’s first wheelchair user elected to the legislature.
Lesbian Episcopal pastor Kim Jackson made history in becoming the first openly LGBTQ member of Georgia’s state senate. Also in the South, Tennessee elected Torrey Harris to the state house, where he will become the first openly LGBTQ member. In Oklahoma, Mauree Turner won a historic race as well. Turner will become the first openly nonbinary person elected to a state legislature in the entire country. Turner is also the first Muslim lawmaker in the Oklahoma legislature.
More than 500 openly LGBTQ people were on the ballot. Transgender, nonbinary, and queer people are taking up much-deserved and much-needed space in our elected offices all over this nation. Why does that matter so much? Because in the rush to paint all voters or people in a certain state as irredeemable or uneducated, the reality is, there are progressive activists on the ground all across this nation who are doing the work every single day. And some of those people are being elected. That’s incredible. Politically, of course, and in terms of visibility. Seeing an openly transgender elected official, or an openly queer woman of color, or an openly gay person with disabilities, and so on, can be truly life-changing for young people anywhere, but especially in places where LGBTQ folks face additional barriers of oppression and discrimination.
The presidential election undoubtedly matters—but so do the smaller races. Every win is worth celebrating.