Article

Why LGBTQIA+ Women Should Run for Office

 

by Angie Esquivel Hawkins

As a queer woman of color, I have been encouraged by the increased attention paid to queer women* in elected office. However, when you look at the numbers, it should come as no surprise to know that queer women are sorely underrepresented at all levels of government. 

 

Here are a few numbers to put things in perspective: 

  • As of 2021, out of 986 known out LGBTQIA+ elected officials nationwide, roughly 40% (399) are women, and only 9% identify as women of color. These percentages track pretty similarly across LGBTQ+ candidates who ran in 2020.
  • Queer men of color are running in numbers proportional to men of color in the overall US population in 2020. Yet, queer women of color are running at rates just half their proportion in the US population.
  • When queer women run, they win. A 2017 analysis by LGBTQ Victory Institute shows queer women win at higher rates than queer men.
  • Even with recent gains in representation, queer folks still comprise only 0.19% of all elected officials. That’s less than one-fifth of one percent!

 

Imagine what our government would look like once that number reaches 1%…5%…or even 10%! I have to think that our government would be a more thoughtful, empathetic body of individuals who care about improving the lives of people from all backgrounds, not just those who look or think as they do. It would probably also just be a more fun place to work! 

 

Now, I am the first to admit that running for office as a queer woman of color is much easier said than done. I have yet to take the plunge because I worry about the impact of entering public office on my family. So many sacrifices would have to be made, and risks would have to be taken, especially in today’s climate where sexism, racism, homophobia, and transphobia seem to be everywhere you turn. These are no minor considerations to weigh, especially when our safety and the safety of those we love is on the line. I do know, though, that there is strength in numbers. What better way to honor the legacy of those who blazed the trail before us than to literally RUN on it? (See what I did there?) Whether you win or not, just getting your name on a ballot advances us a step farther on the goal towards equal representation. 

 

Representation begets representation, meaning that the more folks like us that we see in office, the more folks like us will be motivated to run. Numbers don’t lie–the more we run, the more we win, and the more we win, the more empowered we will be to effect lasting change in our communities. Think of the snowball effect–you may just be one snowflake (can I reclaim that term?), but as part of a growing snowball, the positive impact you make will only continue to grow. So if you have even a whisper of a thought in your mind about one day running for office, listen to it! Consider this the sign you’ve been waiting for. Your community needs you and so do all marginalized and underrepresented communities across the country. 

 

So, what do you say? Let’s get this snowball rolling! 

 

*In this blog post I use the term ‘queer women’ (and ‘women,’ more broadly) as an umbrella term meant to include transwomen, transfemmes, cisgender women, and any other feminine-leaning identities out there.