New Age Politicians of the LGBTQ+ Community Generating Societal Impact.
Happy Pride Month! With June being the month to reminisce and celebrate the historical impact caused by events such as the 1969 Stonewall Riots or LGBTQ+ advocates like Marsha P. Johnson, it’s important to look towards roles where people have made the ability to be openly proud and their most authentic selves. Our political officials — some of the best and worst people of our nation — have continued to become diversified through our vote and demand for proper and progressive representation. Let us acknowledge those who were elected while open about their identity and who now use their position to advocate for the protection of those in the LGBTQ+ community.
Kendall Martinez-Wright is the first transgender woman to run for the Missouri House of Representatives; she plans to run and take office for the 2022 session. As stated on her campaign website, while a student at Lincoln University, “she became a critical advocate for policy and legislative action that impacted funding for education and civil rights… [and] served as the leader for social justice marches, fundraising campaigns, and statewide initiatives. Since, Kendall has continued her involvement in serving within approximately thirty-six civic organizations, establishing a wide range of relationships with elected officials, and serving as a discussion facilitator on a wide range of issues from racial justice, access to education, diversity, and healthcare.”
As an advocate for human rights, Martinez-Wright plans to support the passing of the Missouri Non-Discrimination Act (MONA) and will ensure secure funding for family and children programs once elected. She has also promised to strengthen the public education system within her community, promote funding for future road projects in both rural and urban communities, ensure small farmer protections in case of natural disasters, and promote Missouri-grown projects.
Ritchie Torres is the current National Representative for New York’s 15th congressional district. Prior to his occupation as a national representative, Torres was the first New York City Council member elected to legislative office as an openly gay candidate in the Bronx and was the council’s youngest member. His campaign website mentions that “poverty and struggle have never been abstractions to him,” as Torres grew up in the Bronx while his mother single-handedly raised both him and his two siblings.
During his time on the City Council, “he passed over forty pieces of legislation, including legislation protecting the City’s affordable housing stock and tackling the city’s opioid epidemic. As the Chairman overseeing NYCHA, he held the first committee hearing ever in public housing, which led to a $3 billion-dollar FEMA investment, the largest in NYC history.” Currently, as a representative for New York, Torres continues to serve his district and nation by serving as the Vice-Chair of the House Homeland Security Committee.
Mauree Turner, a member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, is the first publicly non-binary American state lawmaker. Growing up, Turner was constantly surrounded by community-based groups and grassroots organizations. According to their campaign website, “Turner is an Oklahoma community organizer, born and raised coming from a Muslim and baptist upbringing. In elementary school, if they were missing class it was because they were at an HIV/AIDS Awareness or LGBTQ+ advocacy conference with their mother.”
Further detailing their passion for their community, their website mentions “their life’s work is geared towards fighting for and maintaining the civil rights and liberties for all who enter America.” As a state representative for Oklahoma, Turner advocates for justice reform, more funding and protections for public education, raising the state minimum wage, creating an integrated healthcare system, and creating an accepting community for diverse individuals to thrive within their legislative house and state.
THE IMPORTANCE OF LGBTQ+ REPRESENTATIVITY IN GOVERNMENT
In 2021 we should all be aware of the importance and impact of having representation in legislative positions. According to the LGBTQ Victory Institute and stated in an article by NBC News, “at least 843 LGBTQ people currently serve in elected offices across the United States, constituting a 21 percent increase since June 2019.” Having a diverse team of government officials to represent people of varying genders and sexualities allows for a unique perspective on LGBTQ+ policy being passed and allows for first-hand experience and knowledge to surpass personal opinion.
With state legislative offices nationwide specifically creating anti-transgender legislature to discriminate against and suppress transgender individuals, such as in Tennessee and Arkansas, 2021is predicted to become the worst year for anti-LGBTQ measures into law according to an article written by the Human Rights Campaign. It is now more important than ever to listen to the voices of disadvantaged and oppressed groups in the fight for equal representation and the establishment of safe spaces for their concerns to be heard.