Editorial: American Politics, But Make It Gay
The 2018 United States midterm elections have been written about ad nauseum. Nearly every predictive and analytical angle has been thoroughly exhausted by the journals and pundits who provide the commentary for our current era. Some have even begun to take note of the historic change-makers in the House’s incoming “freshman class.” However, one dimension of the results which is immensely relevant for this political moment in time has been surprisingly overlooked: diversity in sexual orientations of newly-elected representatives, both nationally and in statewide elections. These outcomes signal a burgeoning momentum for the progressive and minority liberation movements of 2018 — and a much-needed dose of it in the contemporary political climate.
Two weeks before the election, the White House released a memo urging the redefinition of gender as a “biological, immutable condition” from birth — a move which would essentially deem transgender people nonexistent. This caused the recent elections to be, among many other hot-button topics, a referendum on LGBTQ+ issues and civil rights. The vast majority of queer candidates ran platforms based heavily on policy and not identity, but given the history of the Nation’s mistreatment of the LGBTQ+ community, one must consider both as relevant considerations in the significance of their victories. Nationwide, the people turned out and spoke through their votes: Americans demonstrated their preference for representative governance, and it’s clear that sexual orientation is an important part of that. Although research indicates that many voters still penalize candidates for being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, this makes the “rainbow wave” significant in other ways by evidencing who and what kind of voters are driving this apparent change.
In this midterm cycle, Americans elected the first openly gay governor, the first openly bisexual senator (who joins an openly lesbian senator in Congress’ upper chamber), and an openly bisexual incumbent Governor was re-elected. The Democratic nominee for Governor of Vermont was the first transgender person to receive such a nomination from a major party. Two transgender individuals were elected to state legislatures, bringing the total number to three nationwide. Massachusetts, additionally, voted in a statewide referendum to uphold employment protections for transgender people.
These results represent undeniable victories for LGBTQ+ communities around the nation — and many more are not so easily captured in simple numbers or statistics. Despite being a clear indication that the country is moving in a more pluralistic and accepting direction, the dangers faced daily by members of the LGBTQ+ community remain very real, especially for those who are queer and also identifying within other marginalized groups). At least 22 transgender individuals have been killed in hate crimes on the basis of their identity in 2018 alone.
Nevertheless, a step forward is a step forward. The “rainbow wave” of leaders elected this November are not only highly qualified, but also demonstrate a new kind of representation headed to D.C., the State House, and the Town Hall: the kind that looks like all members of their communities, rather than just the cisgender, or heterosexual, or male, or white ones. No identity should be viewed as disqualifying; rather, having representation from all types of backgrounds is the basis for a stronger democracy which can better keep its promise to uphold the interests of all people within it.
The LGBTQ+ community is only one of many that needs greater representation in the halls of power, but the victories which it encountered this year should be encouraging to all. Going forward, the successes of LGBTQ+ candidates in this particular political climate ought to offer hope for the continued march toward dignity for those “different” from the “normal” that has dominated politics for so long.