Recent years have seen a record number of anti-LGBTQ+ (and especially anti-trans) bills in the US. And while that bill has unimaginable negative political and cultural impact, a new survey reveals that the anti-LGBT legislative wave -LGBTQ+ is also pushing more trans people to run for office.
The Victory Institute, an advocacy group that supports LGBTQ+ candidates for public office, last week released a report examining the “motivations, experiences, and challenges of LGBTQ+ candidates in the United States United.” Conducted in partnership with Loyola University’s LGBTQ+ Policy Research Initiative, it surveyed 474 candidates from 49 states, Washington DC, and Puerto Rico about what it would be like for an LGBTQ+ person to run for office today.
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The majority of candidates (79.3%) said that their main motivation for running was simply the desire to improve their local community. However, trans people are the demographic most likely to cite anti-LGBTQ+ legislation as a primary motivation, with 14.3% of trans women and 10.3% of gender non-conforming respondents , gender queer, and non-gender queer. as the main reason for this. Nearly half of LGBTQ+ candidates also cited the desire to increase LGBTQ+ representation in office as a primary motivation (45.8%).
In general, queer and trans people remain underrepresented as elected officials, but the number of LGBTQ+ people running for and holding office has increased dramatically in recent years. . 2022 saw the largest number of queer and trans candidates in history, with at least one LGBTQ+ person running for office in every state. Since 2017, when the Victory Institute began publishing data on LGBTQ+ candidates, the number of outed LGBTQ+ elected officials has nearly doubled, from 448 in 2017 to 1,043 in 2022.
This surge in LGBTQ+ candidates comes despite the fact that they face many challenges that their straight counterparts do not. According to a report by the Victory Institute, 79.6% of respondents fear that running as an LGBTQ+ candidate will increase the possibility of being harassed or attacked. The report also concludes that this fear is somewhat justified, as 71.3% of respondents suffered anti-LGBTQ+ attacks during their campaign. 55.2% of LGBTQ+ candidates said that anti-LGBTQ+ attacks have affected their mental health.
However, respondents also found strength in their queer and trans identities. 11.5% of respondents said they believe they have gained rather than lost support following attacks against LGBTQ+ people. In addition, 84% of respondents said they believe that being LGBTQ+ makes them better candidates, and 59.5% of respondents said they empathize with other groups because of their identity.
Given what is at stake in the 2024 election, the report offers timely information on the status of LGBTQ+ candidates. Many Republican candidates have already made the fight against the LGBTQ+ community a central issue in their platforms. Both Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis have proposed a federal ban on trans healthcare for minors, as well as a ban on trans women competing in sports. Nikki Haley expressed her belief that “Don’t Say Gay” isn’t enough, despite blaming trans kids in locker rooms for teen suicide rates. And that’s just at the national level: countless elected officials are also pushing anti-trans rhetoric at the state and local levels.
While things are not looking good for LGBTQ+ candidates, it is more important than ever to elect people who will protect queer and trans people. As people like George Santos and Kyrsten Sinema have shown, that does not mean that the candidates themselves must identify as LGBTQ+. But heading into 2024, queer communities will need all the help they can get.