For the first time in U.S. history, over 1,000 people who identify as LGBTQ are serving as elected politicians, according to a new study by the LGBTQ Victory Institute.
The annual Out for America Report, published by the organization on August 18, covers the proportion of openly queer political representatives in the country.
The LGBTQ Victory Institute trains and advocates for political candidates and officeholders who identify as something other than cisgender- including trans and nonbinary.
Out for America 2022: Key findings and big gains
According to the report, the number of LGBTQ elected officials grew by nearly 6% last year.
The number has nearly doubled since 2017- when the organization began releasing data- growing from 448 LGBTQ elected officials that year to 1,043 in 2022.
The report found a notable increase in representation among queer officials of color, whose numbers increased 12.3% from June 2021 to June of this year, compared to 1.3% for white elected officials.
The number of transgender officials has also increased by nearly 10% from 2021 to 2022.
The good news: ‘A signal for voters’
For Gabriele Magni, assistant professor of political science at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, these gains partly have to do with the success of examples we have had in office.
In an interview with NBC News, Magni cited Virginia delegate Danica Roem as an example.
Roem made history in 2018 by becoming the first out transgender person to be seated in the U.S. state legislature. She announced her bid for Virginia state Senate in May.
“These candidates are able to win,” Magni said. “This is a signal for voters.”
The bad news: Ongoing underrepresentation
Even with the dramatic increase in the number of LGBTQ elected officials, however, queer people remain largely underrepresented.
According to the LGBTQ Victory Institute, openly queer elected officials make up just 0.2 percent of politicians in America, while the number of LGBTQ+ people in the total population makes up an estimated 7.1 percent.
To reach an accurate representation, the report found that the U.S. would have to elect 35,854 more LGBTQ+ politicians, including 27 more LGBTQ+ members of Congress.
Why representation in the political arena matters
State legislators have introduced more than 340 anti-LGBTQ bills this year, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
Many of these bills specifically target transgender people- limiting trans people’s ability to play sports, use bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity, and receive gender-affirming health care.
According to Andrew Reynolds, a senior research scholar at Princeton University who studies LGBTQ politics, electing openly queer and trans officials can play a significant role in the kinds of policies that are enacted.
He wrote a journal article in 2013 that found, that once in office, LGBTQ leaders have a transformative effect on the views and voting behavior of their straight colleagues.
“When in positions of power, LGBTQ officials can set agendas that benefit queer and trans people and build alliances with colleagues who are not LGBTQ to join their causes,” Reynolds wrote.