Guest Opinion: Running for our lives: The urgency of LGBTQ+ representation in American politics

  • by Janelle Perez
  • Wednesday May 8, 2024
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LPAC Executive Director Janelle Perez. Photo: Courtesy LPAC
LPAC Executive Director Janelle Perez. Photo: Courtesy LPAC

In the world of American politics, one truth remains constant: the influence of our voices has the power to shape the future. As a former candidate for office, I've witnessed firsthand the transformative impact of grassroots activism and political engagement.

My journey has been deeply personal as a lesbian woman living in this country. I ran for office after having beat cancer, determined to make a difference in my community. After the Florida GOP poured nearly $10 million into defeating me, it unwittingly sparked a movement, shifting my attention to the nation. In my role as LPAC's new executive director, my commitment to this cause has become an immovable determination to create a world where every queer individual can stand tall, unafraid, and unapologetically themselves.

It's not just about us anymore; we're fighting to empower our community to serve, because our struggle is far from over.

In recent years, we've seen a disturbing trend of hateful politics and a right-wing obsession with vilifying the LGBTQ+ community. From discriminatory laws targeting transgender individuals to attempts to roll back hard-fought gains in LGBTQ+ rights, our community has been under siege.

In states everywhere, lawmakers have proposed a slew of anti-LGBTQ+ bills. These attacks on our community are not isolated incidents; they are part of a broader pattern of discrimination that must be confronted head-on and LGBTQ+ representation in every level of government has never been more urgent.

But let me tell you, our stories aren't just important — they're vital. It's time for our voices to ring clear and cut through the silence, claiming our rightful place in positions of leadership.

Let's not sugarcoat it: running for public office as queer individuals means knowingly painting a target on our backs. We're no strangers to the vitriol, the criticism, and the hateful attacks. Yet, despite the odds stacked against us, it's the fire of representation and the hope of a new generation burning within these communities that fuels our resolve. It's the belief that every door we knock on, every speech we deliver, every battle we fight, is a step closer to a future where no one feels invisible or isolated.

Representation isn't just about visibility; it's about equity and justice, and to achieve that, we have to win. When LGBTQ+ individuals are elected to office, they bring their lived experiences to the table, advocating for policies that reflect the needs of our community. Whether it's fighting for LGBTQ+-inclusivity or defending transgender rights, LGBTQ+ leaders play a big role in advancing social progress and justice.

Today, LGBTQ+ candidates are stepping up to run for office at record levels, determined to make a difference.

As the nation's only organization dedicated to electing LGBTQ+ women and nonbinary candidates to office nationwide, LPAC helps elevate diverse voices to positions of power, and challenge the status quo. From local school boards to Congress, our goal is to ensure that LGBTQ+ individuals have a seat at the table and a voice in the decisions that affect our lives.

Today, we've endorsed over 700 candidates and successfully helped elect 275 women and nonbinary candidates to office, and we're damn proud of the work we've done.

LPAC's roster of endorsed candidates is not just participating in elections; they're etching their names into the archives of history with their groundbreaking campaigns. Julie Johnson stands at the threshold of becoming the first LGBTQ+ woman to represent the South in Congress and Jennifer Tran, Ph.D., in Oakland, California is set to break barriers as the first out LGBTQ+ Asian woman in the House of Representatives.

In Texas, Molly Cook's bid for the state Senate could see her become the first openly LGBTQ+ individual in that body, while Emma Mulvaney-Stanak in Burlington, Vermont, emerged as both the city's first female and LGBTQ+ mayor, reflecting the progress toward inclusivity.

With LPAC support, the Golden State might witness an unprecedented increase in diversity with Sade Elhawary, Christy Holstege, Marisol Rubio, Clarissa Cervantes, and Sasha Renée Pérez aiming to be the first bisexual women in the Legislature. Not to mention Lisa Middleton, who is on the cusp of becoming the first transgender California state senator, adding to a historic shift toward broader representation.

Lupe Valdez's potential return as the nation's first Latina LGBTQ sheriff, in Dallas County, Texas, radiates hope and resilience, while Ysabel Jurado's lead in Los Angeles suggests a return of LGBTQ representation to the City Council. These campaigns are more than mere political victories; they are the embodiment of an unstoppable wave of change, propelled by an unwavering commitment to equality.

When we say we're "Running for Our Lives," it encapsulates the spirit of our movement: a fierce determination to fight back against discrimination and injustice, to reclaim our voices and our power.

With each election victory, we send a powerful message to the world: that LGBTQ+ individuals belong in positions of leadership, that our voices matter, and that we will not be silenced or erased.

Janelle Perez, a lesbian, is the executive director of LPAC, which is the nation's leading organization dedicated to electing LGBTQ women and nonbinary people to public office throughout every level of government. For more information, visit

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