Story at a glance
- A historic number of LGBTQ+ candidates are running for political office this election season.
- A new report from the LGBTQ Victory Institute breaks down current representation in government.
- LGBTQ+ representation is growing most rapidly on the local levels, with less representation on the state and federal levels.
There are more LGBTQ+ Americans in elected office than ever before, with each election setting a new record. But while 4.5 percent of adults in the United States identify as LGBTQ+, less than 1 percent of elected officials do — 0.17 percent to be exact, according to a new report from the LGBTQ Victory Institute.
“While LGBTQ people are running for office in historic numbers, we remain severely underrepresented at every level of government – and that must change,” said Annise Parker, president and CEO of LGBTQ Victory Institute and former mayor of Houston, in a statement.
With a record number of LGBTQ+ candidates appearing on ballots in 2020, the so-called “rainbow wave” has begun to take shape, with West Virginia electing the state’s first openly transgender official to local office last month.
In the last year, the report found a 21 percent increase in LGBTQ+ elected officials, 53 percent increase in bisexual elected officials, 40 percent increase in trans women elected officials and 71 percent increase in queer elected officials.
“Over the past year, LGBTQ elected officials have been on the frontlines — leading efforts to end racism, blocking bills targeting the trans community and passing legislation that moves equality forward for our community. Allies are important, but LGBTQ representation in the halls of power is critical to the success of our movement,” said Ruben Gonzales, vice president of LGBTQ Victory Institute.
Of the now 843 LGBTQ+ elected officials, 510 of them are local officials, 46 are mayors and 111 are judicial officials on all levels of government. On the state level, there’s been a 9 percent increase in LGBTQ+ state legislators since June 2019 to a total of 160, but in order to achieve equitable representation, the LGBTQ Victory Institute said the United States needs to elect 173 more. Meanwhile, there are just two LGBTQ+ governors and five statewide executives, while on the federal level there are seven LGBTQ+ U.S. representatives and just two U.S. senators.
If you break up the numbers into demographics, there are even deeper disparities. More than half of these elected officials are gay and just under a third are lesbian, while all other sexual orientations make up about 15 percent. A majority are cisgender, with about 57 percent being cis men and 38 percent being cis women, while less than 3 percent are trans women and less than 1 percent are trans men. There are currently no genderqueer or nonbinary elected officials. In terms of race, about 77 percent of these officials are white, followed by about 10 percent Latinx/Hispanic and 6 percent Black. Politically, almost 80 percent are Democrats, with less than 3 percent being Republican.
“LGBTQ elected officials continue to become more diverse—with people of color, bisexual and transgender elected officials increasing at a faster pace than LGBTQ white and cisgender elected officials over the past three years. LGBTQ cisgender women in elected office, however, grew at a slower pace than LGBTQ cisgender men,” the report said.
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