LGBTQ+ are more visible than ever, after a decade of both politics and pop culture championing representation. By another metric, they are also more unsafe than ever. As noted by the Washington Post, both right-wing politicians and pastors have recently “openly called for killing LGBTQ+ people,” while Pride events (like one in Coeur D’Alene, ID) and drag queen programming (like this storytime in Oakland, CA) are increasingly under attack, creating fear in what should be safe spaces. ABC News puts the number of anti-LGBTQ bills proposed by state lawmakers at over 300.
This dynamic is nothing new, aptly described as a “trap door” particularly for trans people in artist Tourmaline’s 2017 anthology by the same name, a summary of which reads: “Trans visibility is touted as a sign of a liberal society, but it has coincided with a political moment marked both by heightened violence against trans people (especially trans women of color) and by the suppression of trans rights under civil law.” Relatedly, trans people are being especially targeted: Transphobic hate crimes (as reported to the FBI) have consistently risen year-over-year as a percentage of overall hate crimes.
In the realm of politics, there is more opportunity than ever for LGBTQ people to develop prescriptive representation. Despite – or in response to – increased violence and harassment against LGBTQ+ people, the LGBTQ Victory Fund, which tracks LGBTQ electoral candidates, the number of LGBTQ people who have campaigned or are currently campaigning for federal office in 2022 is already twenty percent higher than the 2020 cycle, as of June 16, 2022. Fifty seven of the 104 LGBTQ people who have either run or are running for the Senate or House are still running as of last week.
There are plenty of potential firsts among the 107, like Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, who would be the “first out LGBTQ person elected to any federal office in North Carolina”; Robert Garcia, running in California, who would be the “first out LGBTQ immigrant elected to Congress”; and Becca Balint, who would be the “first out LGBTQ person and the first woman elected to Congress from Vermont”. It includes lots of already-elected “firsts” and “onlys,” too, like Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA), the “only out LGBTQ AAPI person in Congress,” and Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-NY), one of the first two out LGBTQ+ Black men in Congress.
It’s lonely enough to be the “first” or “only,” but these candidates seek office at a time when America’s two-party system is a largely unwelcoming one. The Republican party is doubling down on its strategy of outright hostility towards queer and trans people – over the weekend, the Texas GOP adopted a resolution calling homosexuality “abnormal” and “[opposing] all efforts to validate transgender identity.” Democrats are, at best, passing an executive order against conversion therapy in a nod to the cascade of state-level legislation; at worst, implying in national media that focusing on “activist issues” like trans rights is politically unsavvy, as Hillary Clinton recently did.