Policy Pioneers: The Impact of the LGBTQIA+ Representation in the Government

Policy Pioneers: The Impact of the LGBTQIA+ Representation in the Government
The election of the LGBTQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex, asexual/aromantic/agender) individuals to the government offices signals an important shift towards the greater diversity and inclusion in the political sphere. As more openly LGBTQIA+ politicians take on the leadership roles, they bring with them unique perspectives shaped by their identities and life experiences. Their presence and the policy priorities can have significant impacts within the government and on the broader public.

In the United States, milestone elections in recent years have sent record numbers of openly LGBTQIA+ candidates to the Congress, governorships, state legislatures, and also local offices. Campaigns by the pioneering candidates have helped to spur more inclusive and also equitable platforms within their political parties. Vicories by these openly LGBTQIA+ candidates also widen the lens on the policy issues directly affecting the LGBTQIA+ communities nationwide.

Once in office, these elected pioneers utilize their platforms to directly sponsor and advocate for the legislation protecting LGBTQIA+ rights. For example, Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin led the efforts to enact policies banning discrimination based on the sexual orientation and gender idenity in the health care systems and federal hiring practices. Governor Jared Polis of Colorado has taken executive action to ban gay conversion therapy practices and make state documents more inclusive for the transgender and also non-binary individuals. These are just a few examples of how elected LGBTQIA+ officials can leverage their governing authority to address the systemic inequities.

The visibility of LGBTQIA+ legislators also helps to shift public opinion and sparks the difficult but necessary conversations around complex social issues. Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, for instance, made history by becoming the first openly bisexual person elected to the U.S. Senate. Her identity prompted renewed discussion in the media and also political spheres about the bisexual erasure and stigma. The presence of transgender legislators like Virginia Delegate Danica Roem has drawn a lot of positive attention to the urgent need for policies protecting the trans rights.

Beyond their identities, LBGTQIA+ elected officials also bring with them professional expertise and also intersectional worldviews shaped by additional aspects of their backgrounds. For example, Native American Representative Sharice Davids of Kansas is focused not only on the LGBTQIA+ issues but also on expanding opportunities for the Indigenous communities. Black gay mayors elected in diverse cities like Chicago, Atlanta, and also Orlando have highlighted the compounded barriers faced by the LGBTQIA+ populations who are also people of color.

While LGBTQIA+ elected officials still comprise a fraction of the representation across the levels of government, their small but mighty numbers are steadily rising each election year. And with their increasing presence comes real change – in the priorities, the conversations, and also policies shaping the communities across America. The example set by these policy pioneers demonstrates the importance of diversity in the leadership and represents hopeful progress for the traditionally marginalized groups. As more LGBTQIA+ changemakers claim their seats at the governing table, they shift the norms and open even more possibilities for inclusive representation shaping a more equitable future.
 
Presented by SHAVA, this article is part of our commitment to embracing the diversity within the transgender community. SHAVA stands in solidarity with transgender people of color, advocating for acceptance and allyship that recognize and celebrate the richness of their diverse experiences.
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