Advancements in LGBTQ+ Political Representation

LGBTQ+ political representation is on the rise. Discover the recent changes and their impact on communities nationwide.
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  • More than 7% of the U.S. population identifies as LGBT.
  • Over one thousand LGBTQ+ candidates ran for political office in 2022.
  • LGBTQ+ elected representatives increased by over 18% from 2020 to 2022, the most in history.
  • Inequities continue to impact LGBTQ+ candidates across the political landscape.

LGBTQ+ people are underrepresented in political positions nationwide. College students and others are running for office and uplifting unheard community voices at record numbers.

Blaizen Bloom, one of 11 LGBTQ+ candidates in Virginia who ran for public office in 2022, is a student at Old Dominion University. They ran for school board in Chesapeake, Virginia. Bloom talks about their political journey, being a member of the LGBTQ+ community, and how others can get involved in politics.

"It's hard work," Bloom says, "but it's rewarding work, and at the end of the day, I just wanna be able to do something that I know I can at least make some sort of positive impact on others and support the community that has given me so much."

The so-called Rainbow Wave of the 2022 elections saw history-making numbers of LGBTQ+ candidates and wins across public offices. Of the record-number 1,065 LGBTQ+ candidates, over 400 LGBTQ+ candidates won their races — the most in U.S. history.

LGBTQ+ political representation is critical. Diversity of thought, experience, and background allows for more expansive forms of political power and a more accurate representation of the United States population.

Underrepresentation happens when a smaller percentage of the population holds elected office than the percentage of identified individuals in the country. According to a February 2022 Gallup poll, 7.1% of the U.S. population identifies as LGBT. And just 0.21% of elected officials nationwide are LGBTQ, according to Out for America.

Why LGBTQ+ Representation Matters

Equitable representation across the political landscape can improve issues of injustice concerning the LGBTQ+ community. Anti-LGBTQ+ legislation limits protections and increases discriminatory practices against over 7% of Americans.

Discrimination against transgender and nonbinary people includes limiting or criminalizing healthcare, restricting access to bathrooms, and excluding full participation in sports.

LGBTQ+ representation can increase political opposition to anti-LGBTQ+ bills. And LGBTQ+ advocacy comes with improved diversity across political positions. Equitable representation also supports the cultural acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community.

Collectively, transgender, nonbinary, and gender non-conforming individuals represented 13.9% of LGBTQ+ candidates in 2022 — an increase from 7.9% in 2020.

Bloom understands the importance and impact of LGBTQ+ representation. "That's why we need to be out," Bloom shares. "And we need to be proud to be taking up the public spotlight and not making too much of a focus on who we are, but what we're doing."

With increased LGBTQ+ political representation, politics becomes a more visible path for others. LGBTQ+ role models, especially in local and national spotlights, inspire others to seek political positions or become involved in community organizing and campaign participation.

Bloom says, "My whole campaign wasn't focused on, 'I'm queer, I'm trans, I'm nonbinary.' I feel it tends to take too much of the focus on putting people in places where they create visibility and not enough on addressing the systemic issues created, that these people created, to marginalize them to begin with."

While visible equity is crucial, the leadership and diversity of thought that LGBTQ+ reps bring to political positions are equally, if not more, vital.

According to Victory Fund, 6.3% of the 1,065 LGBTQ+ people who ran for political office in 2022 were transgender. Another 5.3% identified as nonbinary or genderqueer, and .4% were two-spirit.

"There's still value to visibility," Bloom says. "Being a leader normalizes it. It shows people that it's okay and they're not alone. That was a big thing for me. One of the reasons for being out was to show people that they're not alone."

LGBTQ+ Political Empowerment

LGBTQ+ individuals and allies in positions of political power are influential advocates. Bills like the Equality Act and the PrEP Access and Coverage Act require widespread support. These bills, and many like them, protect the rights and liberties of LGBTQ+ people.

"My first year of high school, nearly five years ago now, I started speaking at city council meetings in my city for solar farms," Bloom says. "That's why I originally started speaking out — because climate change is a big issue."

For Bloom, climate change brought them to community engagement and advocacy. Bloom later took an interest in supporting their community through the pandemic.

"The pandemic hit and my advocacy, which had been primarily focused on city council and its various commissions, quickly shifted over to the school board and how to navigate the pandemic, how to navigate what public education should look like in a pandemic," says Bloom.

Gen Zers believe that government reps should do more to solve issues around the country. The political landscape for Gen Zers is shifting as more become of voting age. About 24 million Gen Zers were eligible to vote in the 2022 elections, according to Pew Research.

The generation is growing into their political power and voicing their opinions.

"That past year, being frustrated with the school board and their inability to handle Covid followed by their inability to protect the rights of transgender students — I said, screw it. I'm finally going, I'm running."

Bloom was among the 41 LGBTQ+ candidates who ran for school board in their respective communities. Bloom, a member of the Hampton Roads Green Party, was among the 0.3% of LGBTQ+ candidates to run with the Green Party in 2022.

Challenges to LGBTQ+ Political Representation

Despite an 18.1% increase in LGBTQ+ reps from 2020 to 2022, political representation is still not equitable. LGBTQ+ candidates face challenges that limit their ability or desire to run and create hurdles during campaigns and terms.

Political candidates in the LGBTQ+ community face threats, violence, and financial instability. In a 2021 Victory Institute survey, 56% of candidates reported being somewhat or very concerned about verbal attacks while campaigning.

Bloom expresses, "I've always personally found my strength in my friends and my friendships … the people that drive me to do what I do and to keep fighting to be involved in politics and deal with all the bigotry and hatred and the nonsense and the propaganda out there."

Educating others plays an important role for many LGBTQ+ candidates and politicians. Misconceptions and myths about the LGBTQ+ community breed misunderstandings or prejudices that can interfere with political campaigns and elected officials' duties.

"I'm not trying to make a statement to people who already know where I stand on the issue," Bloom states. "I'm making a statement to conservative Chesapeake, to the average voter. I'm trying to win them over into why they should oppose a policy … I oppose it, but here's why you should too."

For college students and other Gen Zers considering running for political office, being a young person can have benefits and disadvantages. It's important for voters to see beyond their age and into their beliefs.

"Well — especially given my age — when they see a young person going up there, when you actually care about the issue, it comes off," Bloom expresses. "It's clear, and it makes people want to support you because they know you're doing it for no other reason than because you're genuinely here and you want to make a difference."

Running for Political Office in College

Running for office as a college student can offer great opportunities to launch a political career, even with its challenges. "If you care, that's the biggest thing," Bloom says.

Joining in campus events, clubs, and groups can be a boost for political candidates in college. Bloom believes it's important to "be involved in different aspects of the community that you care about."

Begin with issues that impact your life or problems that your community members share. Bloom offers some ideas for getting started with issues you care about.

"Whether it's directly giving back to the community, being part of civic leagues or other NGOs that take that burden, or being more politically engaged in trying to pursue your government to get collective bargaining agreements or to adopt resolutions to protect abortion rights, or even against overdevelopment of green energy."

Volunteering for political campaigns can be a great way to gain experience and network. You'll gain insights into how campaigns work, ways to reach out to constituents, and ideas about fundraising.

Bloom speaks on the merits of staffing a political campaign. "It's not as hard as running for office, but it's difficult. And again, even just speaking at these bodies, being aware of what's on the agenda, that gives you an idea."

As you build connections with individuals and groups within your community, your network also grows. People may begin to recognize you for your community advocacy or campaign support.

"If you show up, you're going to meet people, and you're going to make an impression," Bloom states. "Getting that experience early on just informs you if you want to participate."

You can also link up with organizations like the Victory Institute that help LGBTQ+ individuals run for political office.

Notable LGBTQ+ Political Representatives

For the first time in U.S. political history, LGBTQ+ candidates ran in all 50 states and the District of Columbia in 2022.

LGBTQ+ candidates of color increased from 30.9% in 2020 to 38.2% in 2022. Collectively, transgender, nonbinary, and gender non-conforming individuals represented 13.9% of the LGBTQ+ candidates in 2022 — an increase from 7.9% in 2020.

In 2022, many states — Virginia, Illinois, and Alaska among them — elected LGBTQ+ people to represent their respective states for the first time in history.

Across the nation, many LGBTQ+ reps stand in the spotlight. Some of the most notable LGBTQ+ representatives are listed below.

First transgender Indigenous state representative, elected in 2020, representing Kansas

First openly LGBTQ governor, elected in 2015, representing Oregon

First transgender state senator in U.S. history, elected in 2020, representing Delaware

First openly gay man to hold elected office, elected in 2018, representing Colorado

First gay immigrant in Congress, elected in 2022, representing California

First transgender man in any state legislature, elected in 2022, representing New Hampshire

First Black LGBTQ person ever elected to state office, representing Connecticut

First nonbinary state legislator, representing Oklahoma

Student Contributor:

Portrait of Blaizen Bloom

Blaizen Bloom

The child of a sailor and a freight auditor, Blaizen was raised to value community and advocate for their values. Although born in St. Cloud, MN, Blaizen has called Chesapeake, VA their home for as long as they can remember, living right around the corner from G.A. Treakle Elementary.

Blaizen has been a firm advocate for the community and has publicly fought for policies to improve the city and support the hard-working families of Chesapeake since the end of 2017.