Bisexual women’s health and well-being may be affected by the gender and sexual orientation of their partner, according to a newstudy published in the Journal of Bisexuality.
Researchers asked more than 600 bisexual women (and those who report being attracted to more than one gender) about their mental health, how open they are about their sexuality, their experiences with discrimination, and any symptoms of depression. They also collected data about whether the respondents were single or in a relationship and about their partner’s sexual orientation and gender identity.
Among their findings is that bisexual women in relationships with heterosexual cisgender men were least likely to be open about their sexual orientation.
“Most research about relationships has been focused on heterosexual couples,” Casey Xavier Hall, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health at Northwestern University and lead author on the article, told NBC News. “There is very little relationship research around bi people’s relationships. There are meaningful differences in relationships depending on the sexual and gender identity of bi women’s partners.”
Bisexual women in relationships with cisgender lesbian women, bisexual cisgender women partners, and bisexual cisgender men partners were more likely to be out than those partnered with heterosexual men.
“Outness” was measured by asking participants, “How out/open are you about your sexual orientation?” with answers ranging from “out to nobody” to “out to everyone.”
Researchers speculated that bi women may be more comfortable disclosing their sexual orientation when in a relationship with a woman. However, bi women were more likely to be out with a bisexual male partner than a heterosexual male partner, suggesting that a shared bisexual identity might be meaningful.
“What’s unique about our finding is that bi women in relationships with bi men were also more likely to be out, compared to bi women in relationships with heterosexual cisgender men,” Xavier Hall said. “It’s about both the sexual and gender identity of the partner.”
Researchers found that the gender and sexual orientation of bisexual women’s partners mattered for their experiences of discrimination and the basis of their sexual identity.
“Relative to participants in relationships with heterosexual cisgender men, reports of discrimination experiences were higher among participants in relationships with lesbian cisgender women, bisexual cisgender women, bisexual cisgender men, and participants who are single,” the study states.
Xavier Hall said the exact reasons for this finding are unclear.
“The visibility of your identity could be at play,” he said. “If you are visibly queer, you may experience more discrimination.”
Xavier Hall also said that bisexual women experience two forms of stigma: homophobia and monosexism.
Monosexism is a kind of stigma experienced by individuals who are attracted to multiple genders, such as bisexuals, pansexuals and some other queer-identifying individuals. The stigma derives from the idea that monosexual identities like gay or heterosexual are normal or superior to sexual identities that are gender inclusive, according to Xavier Hall.
“More research is needed to understand what leads to the discrimination piece,” he said.
The study also found that bisexual women with cisgender lesbian partners had fewer depressive symptoms compared to single bi women.
Previous research found differences in mental health between bisexual women in relationships with women and men but had not explored the role of female partners’ sexual orientation.
“This makes me want to see more research looking at female-female relationships accounting for differences in partner sexual identity to really know if there are differences and to understand what might account for those differences,” Xavier Hall said.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people of color are significantly more likely to experience the adverse health and economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic than white non-LGBTQ people, according to a new study.
The study from the Williams Institute, a think tank at the UCLA School of Law, is based on a national survey of more than 12,000 U.S. adults, conducted between August and December. According to researchers, the impact of the pandemic cannot be understood without considering the intersection of race with sexual orientation and gender identity.
“People in America are experiencing the pandemic differently,” Brad Sears, interim executive director of the Williams Institute and an author of the report, told NBC News. “In many of the results, you can see a combined impact of sexual orientation and race and ethnicity.”
The disproportionate effects, the study notes, can be found “across a number of indicators.”
“LGBT people of color are more likely to have tested positive for COVID-19, to personally know someone who died of COVID-19, and to have experienced several types of economic instability as a result of the pandemic,” the study states. “They are also more likely to follow public health measures, such as getting tested for COVID-19, social distancing, and wearing masks than non-LGBT White people.”
The study comes on the heels of another from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that found sexual minorities have higher rates of several underlying health conditions — such as cancer, kidney disease, heart disease, diabetes and asthma — that can increase the risk of severe illness related to Covid-19.
Previous studies from the Williams Institute have also found LGBTQ people to be at risk of serious illness resulting from Covid-19 and to face higher rates of unemployment as a result of the pandemic.
LGBTQ people of color were twice as likely as white respondents — regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity — to report having tested positive for Covid-19 (14.5 percent vs. just over 7 percent), according to the findings, while non-LGBTQ people of color had a positivity rate of 10.6 percent.
“Race is playing a huge role here,” Sears said, adding, “When we think about an intersectional impact, this is about as clear as we can see it in the data.”https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?creatorScreenName=NBCNews&dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-0&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1359289988442017794&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nbcnews.com%2Ffeature%2Fnbc-out%2Fnonwhite-lgbtqs-twice-likely-test-covid-positive-straight-whites-study-n1258246&siteScreenName=NBCNews&theme=light&widgetsVersion=889aa01%3A1612811843556&width=550px
In terms of a personal impact, researchers found that people of color — regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity — were over than 50 percent more likely than their white counterparts to personally know someone who died of Covid-19.
The survey’s economic findings further underscore the intersectional impact of the pandemic, with LGBTQ people of color nearly three times more likely than non-LGBTQ whites to report being recently laid off (15 percent vs. 5.4 percent). LGBTQ whites and non-LGBTQ people of color reported similar rates (10.4 percent vs. 11.5 percent).
LGBTQ people of color were also nearly twice as likely than non-LGBTQ whites to report being concerned about their ability to pay their bills (63 percent vs. 33 percent), with rates for LGBTQ whites and non-LGBTQ people of color somewhere in between (42 percent and 55 percent, respectively).https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?creatorScreenName=NBCNews&dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-1&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1359171449697804291&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nbcnews.com%2Ffeature%2Fnbc-out%2Fnonwhite-lgbtqs-twice-likely-test-covid-positive-straight-whites-study-n1258246&siteScreenName=NBCNews&theme=light&widgetsVersion=889aa01%3A1612811843556&width=550px
Sears speculated that several other factors in addition to race and LGBTQ status could be at play in the economic data, including age, gender and occupation.
The survey’s LGBTQ respondents were younger overall than the non-LGBTQ respondents, and he noted that “younger people were in jobs that were harder hit and have less economic stability.”
“The second thing that is important to keep in mind is that this is the first recession to hit women harder than men,” Sears said. “Women are more likely to identify as lesbian, bisexual and transgender.”
He also added that LGBTQ are overrepresented “in occupations that have been the hardest hit that include retail, food service and health care.”
Following public health guidance
LGBTQ people’s level of concern about the pandemic is higher than non-LGBTQ people, as is their propensity to follow public health guidelines, the report found.
Ninety percent of LGBTQ respondents said they were concerned about the pandemic, and 85 percent said they were worried about getting sick, compared to 82 percent and 75 percent of non-LGBTQ respondents, according to the report.
Approximately 94 percent of LGBTQ respondents said they followed public health guidelines like wearing a mask, compared to 89 percent of non-LGBTQ respondents, and 80 percent of LGBTQ respondents said they practiced social distancing, compared to 75 percent of non-LGBTQ respondents.
“You start seeing, not surprisingly, the groups most impacted are also the groups taking it most seriously and following through with precautions,” Sears said.
There was no significant difference between LGBTQ people and non-LGBTQ people in their intention to get the vaccination.
Government trust and missing data
The survey found a gap between LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ people when it comes to trust in institutions, with LGBTQ people reporting less trust in both the federal government (31 percent vs. 38 percent) and pharmaceutical companies (28 percent vs. 41 percent). They did, however, report a higher level of trust in the CDC than their non-LGBTQ counterparts (76 percent vs. 70 percent).
For Sears, deficits in public trust are one more reason why the lack of LGBTQ-specific data collection from the government is a problem.
“It is important for the federal government to add questions to thePulse survey,” he said, referring to the government survey launched in October to understand how Americans have been affected by the pandemic.
“The government responded very quickly in creating that survey to measure the impact that Covid was having on the American population, but they did not include questions on sexual orientation or gender identity,” he said. “We have been working to find data to fill in this gap.”
Sears noted the pandemic is revealing inequalities that have already existed in society along the lines of race, gender and sexuality, and said it would be “extremely helpful” for the Biden administration’s efforts to control the pandemic to have sexual orientation and gender identity data.
“It was no surprise that his epidemic has disproportionately impacted people of color, and it was not a surprise that this pandemic has disproportionately impacted LGBT people,” he said.
He added that an effective vaccine alone will not end the health crisis: “Addressing these entrenched inequalities of race, ethnicity, sexuality and gender is the only way to get through this pandemic and to prevent the next one.”
Legislators in Montana advanced two bills Monday focused on transgender youth: House Bill 112 would prohibit transgender student athletes from participating on teams that correspond to their gender identities, and House Bill 113 would prohibit health care professionals from providing gender-affirming care to trans minors.
“If passed into law, HB 112 and HB 113 will cause irrevocable harm to trans youth,” Caitlin Borgmann, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Montana, said in a statement. “If these discriminatory bills pass — we will sue, and we will win. Trying to defend laws in court that stigmatize and target trans youth doesn’t seem like a good use of taxpayer dollars to us.”
The bills working through Montana’s Legislature are among an estimated 21 anti-LGBTQ measures that have been filed or pre-filed for 2021 state legislative sessions, according to Freedom for All Americans, an organization advocating for LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections. Many of the bills, like those in Montana, focus on transgender youths.
“I think the volume of bills is going to dramatically increase, particularly because of what is happening at the federal level,” said Kasey Suffredini, CEO of Freedom for All Americans. “For the opposition, this is the only avenue for their narrative that treating LGBT people with dignity and respect is a problem for the country.”
Chase Strangio, deputy director of transgender justice for the American Civil Liberties Union, agreed.
“We often see backlash” after advancements in LGBTQ rights, he said, citing the flurry of measures targeting LGBTQ people after the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, which expanded the scope of federal nondiscrimination law to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
Strangio said that with fewer opportunities to roll back LGBTQ rights at the federal level under President Joe Biden — who has signed multiple pro-LGBTQ executive orders — he’s not surprised that opponents are zeroing in on the states.
Republican legislators in over a dozen states have proposed legislation that targets LGBTQ people. The bills touch on athletics, health care and a grab bag of other issues related to queer rights and recognition.
Legislators have also introduced bills to restrict transgender participation in student athletics in Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, North Dakota, New Hampshire and Florida. The trend carried over from last year, when lawmakers took up the issue in several states. Idaho is the only state to have adopted such a law, and it did so just last year.
Proponents of such bills say it’s about fairness, while opponents say the measures are discriminatory.
Bills that would penalize or criminalize medical professionals for providing trans youths with gender-affirming care have been introduced in Utah, Missouri, Indiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Texas.
“Criminal health care bans are unlike anything we have ever seen before,” Strangio said. “To cut someone off from their health care and make it a crime is pretty much unparalleled.”
In Kentucky, SB 83 would prohibit “discrimination” against any health care provider who refuses to administer care because of a religious objection.
In New Hampshire, HB 68 would expand the definition of “child abuse” to encompass parents’ provision of gender-affirming care, while bills in Alabama, Missouri and Indiana would make it a crime for physicians to give any gender-affirming care to a minor.
Strangio said he is alarmed by “how far-reaching these bills are becoming.” For example, a bill introduced by Mississippi state Sen. Angela Burkes Hill would criminalize access to care for young adults up to age 21.
Hill defended the bill on social media as necessary in the face of Biden’s pro-LGBTQ policies: “It should have been passed last year. Who is going to fight for your daughters not to be cheated by biological males deciding to identify as a girl?? Women shouldn’t have to change clothes in front of men either. That federal money will be the carrot. Get ready.”
Other bills that have alarmed LGBTQ advocates include Indiana’s HB 1456, which aims to prohibit transgender people’s access to bathrooms that match their gender identities; South Dakota’s HB 1076, which would require birth certificates to reflect biological sex; North Dakota’s HB 1476, which would codify discrimination against LGBTQ people; and Iowa’s Senate File 80, which would require schools to alert parents if their children are asked by school employees about their “preferred” pronouns.
For LGBTQ advocates, the news from legislatures isn’t all bad.
Suffredini expects several states to advance nondiscrimination protections, including Ohio, Pennsylvania, Arizona and Michigan. In Michigan, advocates collected over 400,000 signatures to put a measure on the ballot to extend such protections, and the Legislature has 40 days to amend existing nondiscrimination legislation or the issue will appear on the November 2022 ballot for voters to decide.
Advocates in Arkansas — one of only three states that have no hate crimes law, along with South Carolina and Wyoming — hope an LGBTQ-inclusive hate crimes bill makes it to the governor’s desk this session. Conservatives tried to derail the bill this month because it includes protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
In Indiana, the state’s first openly gay legislator, Sen. J.D. Ford, has proposed legislation that would outlaw conversion therapy for minors by licensed counselors. If the bill becomes law, Indiana would join 20 other states and 80 cities in banning the widely discredited practice.
North Carolina cities and municipalities have begun to pass nondiscrimination measures after the end of a moratorium on such local ordinances as a result of a 2017 compromise bill that repealed HB 2, the controversial “bathroom bill.”
New York Senate Democrats are advancing a bill that would strike down an anti-loitering statute, also known as the “walking while trans” law, which allows police to arrest and detain sex workers merely for being on the street. LGBTQ advocates say that the statute is used to harass transgender women of color and that its repeal is necessary to end targeted discrimination. The legislation is on track to pass next week.
Maryland legislators introduced a measure that would make it easier for transgender people to legally change their names.
State Sen. Scott Wiener, an openly gay lawmaker from California, has introduced a bill that would prohibit medically unnecessary surgical procedures on intersex children before age 6. If it passes, the law would be the first of its kind in the U.S.
An ally in the White House
Since he took office last week, Biden has taken several actions applauded by LGBTQ advocates, including issuing an executive order that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity across federal agencies and another that rescinds former President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender people’s serving openly in the military.
“The Biden administration is by far the most supportive of LGBT people in U.S. history,” Suffredini said. “He took action on day one to extend protections on day one. No other president has done that. That is a first.”
With Biden in the White House and Democrats in control of Congress, Suffredini and other advocates are optimistic about passage of pro-LGBTQ federal legislation, including the Equality Act, which would grant LGBTQ people federal protections from discrimination in employment, housing, credit, education, use of public space, public funding and jury service.
“We are in the best position we have ever been to update federal civil rights law,” Suffredini said. “Our dedicated opposition knows this, and they know this moment could be coming. This is a last gasp.”
LGBTQ candidates once again made history in terms of the overall number elected to Congress and state legislatures across the country. However, many of them had to contend with homophobic and transphobic attack ads this election cycle.
“There is little doubt that millions of dollars in homophobic and transphobic attacks ads devastated our candidates in key swing districts during the final weeks of their campaigns,” said Annise Parker, president of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, which trains and advocates for queer candidates at all levels of government. “Bigoted politicians and operatives who thrive in the politics of hate were able to peel away support from voters who don’t yet know our community.”
Bigoted ads did not spell defeat for all LGBTQ candidates they targeted, but even the candidates who overcame the attacks did have to invest resources to respond to them.
Impacts ‘hard to quantify’
When it comes to homophobic and transphobic political attacks, “it is hard to quantify the effects,” according to Gabriele Magni, an assistant professor of political science at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.
“When you have an incumbent president who is such a polarizing figure, it becomes harder to disentangle what is the effect the homophobic attack ad and what is the effect of having Donald Trump on the ballot,” he said.
He also explained that “voter suppression efforts that target constituents that are generally most supportive of Democratic candidates,” also hurt LGBTQ candidates, as the lion’s share of them run as Democrats (at least 90 percent, according to LGBTQ Victory Fund’s estimate).
Whether a candidate won or lost may not be indicative of the impact of the bigoted attacks either, as Magni said the bar tends to be higher for LGBTQ candidates who make it to the general election, so “the exceptional quality of some of these candidates allowed them to overcome the negative effects of some of these attacks.”
Nonincumbents and purple districts
Homophobic and transphobic attacks produced mixed impacts on congressional races, with nonincumbents and those in purple districts most likely to suffer defeat.
In New Hampshire, Democrat Chris Pappas — who in 2018 became the first openly gay man to represent the state in Congress — was able to stave off what supporters called homophobic challenges to his integrity to win re-election against Republican challenger Matt Mowers.
During a debate Oct, 21, Mowers brought up Pappas’ alleged relationship with a lobbyist and accused the candidate of impropriety. Pappas denied the claim, and in a statement after the debate, he said Mowers’ behavior was “despicable” and that he had “crossed a line.”
Mowers’ campaign manager, John Corbett, called the homophobia claims “untruthful accusations” designed to divert public attention from policy issues and obscure Pappas’ relationship with the lobbyist.
“Matt Mowers learned the hard way that his desperate homophobic dog whistle attacks cost him votes amongst Republicans and independent voters in the closing days of the campaign,” Lucas Meyer, campaign manager for Pappas, said in an email to NBC News after his election victory. “Granite Staters saw right through his baseless attacks and rejected his blatant bigotry that he made the focus of his closing message.”
While Pappas was in a purple district, which President Donald Trump carried in 2016, he had the advantage of incumbency this year. “Homophobic attacks are less effective against well-known candidates, because voters already know them,” Magni said.
Nonincumbent congressional hopefuls in purple districts had a tougher time trying to flip red to blue districts.
Two races for which LGBTQ advocates and Democrats had high hopes — Gina Ortiz Jones and John Hoadley — did not pan out.
Hoadley lost against incumbent Republican Rep. Fred Upton, who voted against the Equality Act last year and for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in 2004 and 2006.
Former U.S. Air Force Capt. Jones lost to Republican Tony Gonzales, a Navy veteran, failing to flip Texas’ 23rd Congressional District for Democrats.
The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) spent millions of dollars on attack ads against both of these candidates.
“If you are running for congress as a nonincumbent,” Magni said, “not so many people know who they are.” This means that voters may “rely more heavily on stereotypes or homophobic tropes,” especially in the context of Covid-19 in which personal contact is even more limited.
By contrast, derogatory comments directed at Rep.-elect Ritchie Torres did not harm his chances of becoming the first Afro-Latinx LGBTQ person elected to Congress. He easily won the general election for his congressional seat against his Republican opponent in one of the most progressive districts in the country. Magni said the attacks are “less consequential” in heavily Democratic districts like New York’s 15th.
Magni explained that the diverse candidate pool, with many women, people of color and transgender candidates are “especially vulnerable targets” for anti-LGBTQ messaging.
Jenna Wadsworth, an outspoken progressive, lost her bid for North Carolina’s agriculture commissioner. In October, Wadsworth became the target of online vitriol after she posted a video asking viewers if Donald Trump’s diagnosis with Covid-19 was their “favorite or most favorite October surprise.”
Wadsworth, who described animosity toward her prior to the video as “minimal,” quickly became inundated with thousands of messages on social media.
Many of the hateful messages, however, were not about Wadsworth’s controversial remarks about Trump’s health — they were about her being unfit for office because of her sexual orientation, gender identity and sex.
“That does a lot to you emotionally, psychologically. It’s very draining,” she said.
Some of the messages made Wadsworth fear for her physical safety. “I received gang rape threats after that video,” Wadsworth said. “Until election night, I was not able to stay in my own home for three weeks.”
Magni described North Carolina as a “deeply divided state when it comes to LGBTQ attitudes” and added that part of the electorate “is receptive to these kinds of attacks.”
Wadsworth, who at 31 would have been the youngest LGBTQ statewide elected official in the country’s history, lost the race and said she believes her campaign suffered due to the bigoted attacks. She said she has not decided what is next for her politically.
Several candidates experienced an unexpected boost in support and financing as a result of homophobic and transphobic attacks.
Shevrin Jones easily won his race for Florida Legislature last Tuesday to become Florida’s first LGBTQ state senator.
In August, a blood bank rejected Jones when he sought to donate plasma after recovering from Covid-19 because he is in a same-sex relationship. A robotext, whose sponsor remains unknown, was sent to voters saying Jones was “discriminated against for recent homosexual contact,” and linked to ShevJones.com, which is not Jones’ website and does not appear to ever have had any information on it. Jones was also the subject of a homophobic flyer with a photo of himself and his partner on vacation and asked, “Is this who you want for your next state senator?”
The attacks did not stop Jones, and paradoxically may have helped in terms of support and funding.
“We raised over $1 million,” Jones said. “When those attacks were coming people just gave more.”
Brianna Titone, who won her bid for re-election to the Colorado Statehouse, experienced several transphobic attack ads.
The group Take Back Colorado released a Facebook ad this month that misgendered Titone and referred to her by her “deadname,” the name she used before her transition. The ad also claimed Titone has “always supported violence” and sexualizes children. Then Republican state Rep. Stephen Humphrey voiced a robocall paid for by the Colorado Family Values Victory Fund attacking Titone’s gender identity.
Magni said transgender candidates may be more likely to become the target of attacks because “public support for trans rights is still lower” than for lesbian and gay rights.
Titone triumphed over the attacks, which led to increases in volunteer support and campaign contributions. “The attacks I had to endure didn’t create any obstacles for me that I didn’t already have,” she told NBC News. “If anything, it helped me with raising money and it convinced some people to support me based on the ads.”
She also feels that her attackers were emboldened by the Trump administration that has “given permission to be rude.”
“I’m curious to see how my new colleagues will treat me. Will they be towing the line of those messages, or will they realize that that is not productive and move away?,” she said.
Omar Leos, who won his race for North East School District board in San Antonio, had a similar experience.
“I think it helped energize the campaign. It mobilized more people to come out to volunteer and it definitely helped me financially too,” Leos told NBC News.
“In my personal opinion, it backfired on them,” Leos said.
Texas Family Action, a political action committee affiliated with the conservative San Antonio Family Association, sent a mailer to voters in Leos’ district describing him as being “‘married’ to same-sex man” and noting he has “no children” in the school district. In contrast, the mailer described Leos’ opponent, Ione McGinty, as a “wife and mother of 6.”
While Leos still won, Magni said that such attacks can “force the campaign to redirect the resources and shift media focus,” he said. “The campaign has to respond.”
Leos did say the homophobic attacks prompted him to shift his campaign message to highlight the unwillingness of his opponent to be an advocate for LGBTQ students.
“Before on my signs was ‘Keep Omar Leos,’” he said. After the homophobic attacks he shifted his message to “A voice for all.”
“I’m a voice for all students, for all people,” Leos said.
There is no reason to believe LGBTQ candidates have seen the last of homophobic and transphobic attacks, but Magni said a swift response by candidates and their allies is important to prevent their opponents from defining the narrative of the campaign.
LGBTQ candidates also need to remember that they are targets because they are strong candidates who have the potential to win, Magni added.
“That should encourage them to soldier on and to keep in mind the ultimate goal — that is, that they are running to serve their constituents.”
Shevrin Jones feels good. In fact, he said, he feels great after easily winning election last week to become Florida’s first LGBTQ state senator.
Jones said the election of so many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people across the country this election cycle “is a direct pushback on the hatred and bigotry over the last four years,” citing the Trump administration’s rhetoric against immigrants, people of color and the LGBTQ community.
“This is a win for all of us,” said Jones, who previously served in the Florida House of Representatives.
Jones was among a record number of openly LGBTQ candidates on general election ballots last week. The LGBTQ Victory Fund, a national organization that trains, supports and advocates for queer candidates, puts that number at approximately 574, and NBC News’ review of their data, state election results and local reports found that more than 220 of these candidates have already claimed victory, with dozens of contests yet to be called.
The fund estimated that in 2018, there were approximately 432 openly LGBTQ candidates on general election ballots, with 244 winning their races. This year, they expect the total number of wins to surpass this number.
While there is power in numbers, Andrew Reynolds, a Princeton researcher who has been studying LGBTQ political representation, cautioned against putting too much emphasis on overall numbers.
“The really exciting thing about the election was not the increase — it was who is getting elected,” he said, pointing to victories by queer women, people of color and transgender candidates across the nation.
“You are seeing a different type of voice emerging,” Reynolds said.
Twenty-six openly LGBTQ candidates for U.S. Senate or House were on the November ballot — the most in U.S. history. Even with one gay incumbent’s House race yet to be called, LGBTQ representation in Congress will hit an all-time high next session.
Two nonincumbent LGBTQ victors, both progressive Democrats, easily won their races. If all incumbents win, as is expected, it will increase LGBTQ representation in the House to nine, from seven, with 11 total LGBTQ people in Congress.
Mondaire Jones, an attorney, and New York City Council member Ritchie Torres handily won their races for New York’s 17th and 15th Congressional Districts, respectively, becoming the first openly gay Black candidates elected to Congress.
“Mondaire and Ritchie have shattered a rainbow ceiling and will bring unique perspectives based on lived experiences never before represented in the U.S. Congress,” Annise Parker, president and CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, said in a statement. “As our nation grapples with racism, police brutality and a pandemic that disproportionately affects people of color and LGBTQ people, these are the voices that can pull us from the brink and toward a more united and fair society.”
Six of the seven LGBTQ representatives currently serving in the House, all Democrats, have already won re-election: David Cicilline of Rhode Island; Chris Pappas of New Hampshire; Mark Pocan of Wisconsin; Angie Craig of Minnesota; Mark Takano of California; and Sharice Davids of Kansas. The seventh, Sean Patrick Maloney of New York, was leading his Republican opponent by nearly 3 percentagepoints as of Thursday with 78 percent of votes in.
There are two LGBTQ U.S. senators — Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, both Democrats, neither of whom was up for re-election.
While an increase of two seats in the House is record-setting for LGBTQ representation in Congress, it was not the big boost advocates had hoped for. One particularly close race was the contest for Texas’ 23rd Congressional District, which out lesbian Gina Ortiz Jones lost by 3 percentage points.
“It’s all about turnout,” Don Haider-Markel, a political science professor at the University of Kansas, said. “Given the pattern over the whole night, I’m not surprised they didn’t make the inroads they thought they would. It looks like in 2020, Republicans were able to turn out their base in ways that blunted the gains Democrats, and LGBTQ candidates, could make.”
The LGBTQ Victory fund estimates that at least 90 percent of queer candidates on this year’s general election ballots were running as Democrats.
Historical state inroads
The picture is even brighter in state legislatures across the country, where a record-breaking number of more than 240 LGBTQ candidates were on the general election ballot. As of Thursday, at least 124 of these candidates had won their races, approximately three dozen of them nonincumbents. There are still a number of state legislative races with LGBTQ candidates that still have not yet been called.
“LGBTQ candidates made historic inroads in state legislatures across the country, winning in states and chambers where we never have before,” Parker said in a statement. “Trans candidates in particular had unprecedented victories, including electing our first trans state senator and almost doubling the number of trans state legislators. These down-ballot victories reflect where America stands on the inclusion of LGBTQ people in our nation’s politics and each one represents an important step forward on the march toward equality.”
Prior to Election Day, five states — Alaska, Delaware, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee — had never elected an openly LGBTQ state legislator.
Delaware leaves the list following the election wins of Sarah McBrideto the state Senate and Eric Morrison and Marie Pinkney to the state House. McBride’s win also makes her the first transgender person elected to any state Senate in the U.S.
Tennessee will also leave the list after electing its first two out state legislators — one on each side of the political aisle. Bisexual Democrat Torrey Harris and gay Republican Eddie Mannis both won seats in the state House.
Haider-Markel said Mannis’ victory is relatively unusual, as the “Republican Party has still not been that welcoming to LGBT folks.” However, Mannis will join several GOP lawmakers who won re-election last week, including Tom Hannegan of Missouri, Jason Elliot of South Carolina and Dan Zwonitzer of Wyoming, who has played a vital role in preventing the passage of anti-LGBTQ legislation in that state.
Alaska could join Delaware and Tennessee in making political history: Out lesbian Lyn Franks is in a race for a seat in the Alaska House of Representatives that is still too close to call.
“It’s really just a matter of time before you see LGBTQ representation in every state,” Haider-Markel said. “Every state has districts that are amenable to Democrats and therefore to LGBTQ candidates.”
He said LGBTQ candidates continue to win local offices and gain the political experience that allows them to run for higher office.
“The gap is really closing,” he said.
Historic wins for Black LGBTQ candidates
This year’s LGBTQ candidate pool was more racially diverse than ever. In addition to Torres and Jones in Congress in New York, many Black queer candidates had historic wins at the state level.
In Florida, along with Shevrin Jones in the Senate, Michele Rayner became the first Black queer woman elected to the Florida state House.
Parker said she hopes these wins “inspire more Black LGBTQ leaders to step up and run themselves.”
“The politics of division and hatred failed in this race and gave way to a government that is more representative of the people it serves,” she said in a statement.
In Georgia, out lesbian Kim Jackson made history when she won her race for state Senate, becoming the first LGBTQ person elected to that chamber.
Tiara Mack in Rhode Island and Marie Pinkney in Delaware also won their races, making major inroads for Black LGBTQ women across the U.S.
Jabari Brisport won his race and will become the first openly LGBTQ person of color elected to New York’s state Legislature.
Prior to Election Day, there were just 42 openly LGBTQ state legislators of color serving nationwide, only 13 of them Black.
Regarding the diversity of LGBTQ candidates, Haider-Markel said: “It’s the same pattern we are seeing with the Democratic Party writ large. Democrats are running the kinds of candidates that reflect the Democratic base, which is a very diverse base.”
In addition to McBride’s win in Delaware, Taylor Small won her race for the Vermont state House, becoming the first out transgender person ever elected to that state’s Legislature.
Stephanie Byers of Kansas won her election, becoming the first out transgender person ever elected to the Kansas state House and the first out trans person of color ever elected to a state legislature in the U.S.
Incumbent transgender state legislators Lisa Bunker and Gerri Cannon in New Hampshire and Brianna Titone in Colorado, all won their races.
These victories take transgender representation at the state level from four to seven.
Danica Roem, who became the first openly transgender legislator anywhere in the country in 2017, congratulated the winners on social media.
“Before I ran in ’17, we had no out trans state legislators. In ’21, we’ll have 7,” she tweeted.
Mauree Turner won their race for the Oklahoma state House and became the first openly nonbinary person ever elected to a state legislature in the United States.
Joshua Query, running for re-election to the New Hampshire state House, will be the first openly gender-nonconforming person elected to a state legislature. Query did not run openly as gender-nonconforming when they first won in 2018.
At the local level, LGBTQ candidates achieved important milestones as well. Todd Gloria won his election for Mayor of San Diego, becoming the first out LGBTQ person elected mayor of that city.
Last month in Alaska, Austin Quinn-Davidson became the first openly LGBTQ mayor in Anchorage when the incumbent resigned.
While last week’s victories for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer candidates have increased representation across the U.S., just a fraction of a percent of the country’s roughly half million elected officials are LGBTQ, according to the LGBTQ Victory Fund.
On the federal level, LGBTQ representation in Congress stands higher, at about 1.7 percent, and that number is expected to increase to 2 percent in January once Mondaire Jones and Ritchie Torres are seated. At the state level, Reynolds of Princeton estimates the current percentage sits at 2.1 percent and will increase to 2.2 percent once all of this year’s election winners are seated — an increase he refers to not as a “rainbow wave” but as a rainbow “splash.”
With LGBTQ people making up an estimated 5 percent of the U.S. population, the Victory Fund estimates we would need to elect 22,000 more lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer elected officials to achieve “equitable representation.”
“I truly believe when we all have a seat at the table and everyone is represented,” Shevrin Jones said, “it makes our nation better.”
Amy Coney Barrett has been fueling the fears of LGBTQ advocacy groups since President Donald Trump first nominated her to the federal bench in 2017. Now, with Barrett officially confirmed as an associate justice of the Supreme Court, advocates worry that she and the court’s five other conservatives could start stripping away gay rights imminently.
The most immediate concern for national LGBTQ and civil rights groups is Barrett’s presence on the court for next week’s arguments in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, a case that looks at whether faith-based child welfare agencies can refuse to work with same-sex couples and other people whom they consider to be in violation of their religious beliefs.
Currey Cook, a lawyer with Lambda Legal, said Barrett’s “history and prior statements” about religious exemptions are “alarming” and have led him to conclude that Barrett would “be inclined to grant certain groups special permission because of their faith.”
Rachel Laser, CEO of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, called Barrett’s record on church-state separation “deeply problematic.”
“She has shown that she would allow claims of religious freedom to be misused to harm women, LGBTQ people, religious minorities and the nonreligious, among many others,” Laser said in a statement.
A number of LGBTQ and civil rights groups have also expressed concern about Barrett’s ties to the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative legal group that has been at the forefront of litigation arguing for an expansive view of religious freedom.
The Human Rights Campaign, the country’s largest LGBTQ rights group, said Barrett’s confirmation “threatens LGBTQ equality,” and it said her previous claim that she was “not aware” of the discriminatory history of the Alliance Defending Freedom was “rather incredible.”
When questioned about her association with the group by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., during her confirmation hearing, Barrett described her experience as “a wonderful one.”
The Human Rights Campaign warned in a report this month that the court’s ruling in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia “could have a sweeping impact on the lives of LGBTQ people.”
“If the Supreme Court undermines nondiscrimination laws in Fulton, it could erode the efficacy of nondiscrimination protections that LGBTQ people enjoy across a wide spectrum of issue areas, including veterans’ services, public accommodations, economic security programs, and housing,” the report said. “Such a result would set a devastating precedent and create a significant roadblock on the path to full equality.”
The Human Rights Campaign and Lambda Legal were among 185 primarily LGBTQ organizations that sent a formal letter to the Senate last week opposing Barrett’s confirmation due to her approach to “issues like privacy, equal protection, and religious liberty.”
‘A time bomb waiting to go off’
Arthur Leonard, a professor of labor and employment law at New York Law School, said Barrett’s presence on the Supreme Court could have a profound impact on LGBTQ rights.
Regarding Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, Leonard said, “That case is sitting there like a bomb waiting to go off, and I’m concerned how the court will deal with it with the addition of Amy Coney Barrett.”
Leonard said he expects Barrett to favor an “expansive view” of the free exercise of religion and to favor overturning lower court rulings that sided with the city of Philadelphia, which terminated its contract with Christian Social Services for foster care services after it refused to work with same-sex prospective parents.
Although they are seemingly unrelated, Leonard said, the ruling in Fulton could have implications for the right to marry.
Leonard said that while an outright overturning of Obergefell v. Hodges, the landmark case that made gay marriage legal across the U.S., is not on the horizon, the conservative court could “begin chipping way” at the right to marry by carving out a religious exemption that undermines the equal treatment of same- and opposite-sex couples mandated by the Obergefell decision.
“This case already gives the court the chance, within the current term, to say, ‘No, Obergefell does not require equal treatment for same-sex and different-sex couples.'”
Leonard said the Fulton case could also affect another landmark decision: Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, in which the court ruled in June that nondiscrimination law in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 covers sexual orientation and gender identity and extends protections to millions of LGBTQ workers.
“Depending on how Fulton is decided, depending on how broadly they rule, it is possible to tear a big exception in Title VII,” Leonard said. Such a ruling, he said, could result in the “dangerous undermining of civil rights law,” which would affect not only LGBTQ people, also but people of color, women and religious minorities.
A decision in the Fulton case could come as early as the spring.
State Rep. Brianna Titone, who made history in 2018 when she became the first transgender lawmaker in Colorado, is now running for her second term. But while her platform focuses on the bread-and-butter issues of transportation, education and jobs, her opponents have targeted her gender identity.
The group Take Back Colorado released a Facebook ad this month that misgenders Titone and refers to her by her “deadname,” the name she used before her transition. The ad also claims Titone has “always supported violence” and sexualizes children.
“It’s just a nasty, transphobic ad that’s blatantly full of lies,” Titone told NBC News.
Take Back Colorado is registered to Joe Neville, the brother of Patrick Neville, the Republican state House minority leader. When questioned by The Denver Post, Patrick Neville denied the ad was transphobic, saying it simply showed “the facts.”
Titone said the strategy backfired. She raised $11,000 in the 36 hours after the ad ran —about 20 percent of all online contributions to her campaign this cycle — and said she now had contributions from 43 out of 50 states.
“I’m getting support from places all over the country now,” she said. “People recognized that there was a group of people trying to beat up someone who is doing a really good job.”
Titone is not the only target of anti-LGBTQ political ads. Many LGBTQ candidates this cycle have been subjected to such attacks, prompting advocates to worry that it has become a trend.
“The homophobic and transphobic attacks on LGBTQ candidates are more frequent and more direct than we have seen in at least a decade,” said former Houston Mayor Annise Parker, who now runs the LGBTQ Victory Fund, a national organization that trains and promotes LGBTQ political candidates.
“The dog whistles of the last few cycles are still prominent, but they are secondary to more direct and blatant uses of anti-LGBTQ stereotypes that weaponize our sexualities in an effort to derail campaigns,” Parker added. “LGBTQ candidates are being falsely called ‘pedophiles,’ ‘sexual predators’ and ‘drug users.’ They are being told they are ‘deplorable’ and should ‘go to church.’ They are being misgendered. And their dating histories — including their use of dating apps — have become the targets of opponents.”
Many of the attacks are happening in close races in competitive districts, like Titone’s.
“My race was one of the hardest races to win in 2018, and I’m a top targeted seat in the House right now,” Titone said of the Colorado House of Representatives.
Gabriele Magni, an assistant professor of political science at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, said homophobic and transphobic attack ads “can be especially powerful and especially hurtful in districts that are not very progressive to start with.”
“They can bring out fear in the electorate,” Magni said. “It’s from an old playbook … trying to create fear about what can happen if transgender people are in office, or if people who are allies with transgender people are in office.”
Magni added that anti-LGBTQ attack ads are actually “validation of the strength and competitiveness of LGBTQ candidates.”
Gina Ortiz Jones, who’s running in Texas’ 23rd Congressional District, has been the subject of attacks funded by the National Republican Campaign Committee. The committee ran an ad last week implying that Jones, a U.S. Air Force veteran, would put military “patriots out of work” so she could “divert military money for transgender reassignment surgeries.”
In August, HuffPost reported that the committee had been encouraging outside groups to remind Texas voters in Jones’ swing district about her sexual orientation.
“The national fundraising arm of the Republican Party has declared war on LGBTQ candidates this election cycle — and homophobia and transphobia are their weapon of choice,” Parker said. “It is despicable that Republicans would attack a military veteran simply because she believes the trans soldiers who risked their lives beside her deserve fair treatment when they return home.”
Jon Hoadley, an openly gay congressional candidate in Michigan, has been the subject of an attack ad from the Congressional Leadership Fund, a PAC dedicated to electing Republicans to Congress, that has been criticized as homophobic. The ad makes reference to Hoadley’s sexual history and calls his judgment “disturbing.” Hoadley is running against an incumbent Republican, Fred Upton, who has not denounced the advertisement.
The ad drew from Hoadley’s personal blog that he kept in his early 20s. On the now-deleted blog, Hoadley wrote about going to a gay bar and mentioned “a four year old wearing a thong” in a post about a friend’s wedding. Hoadley has apologized in a Facebook video for any misunderstanding stemming from the posts.
Chris Pack, a spokesperson for the National Republican Campaign Committee, defended the ads.
Holding Hoadley accountable for “his disgusting comments about toddlers in thongs has nothing to do with his sexual orientation,” Pack told NBC News, “and the same is true regarding Gina Jones wanting to divert money from the military to foot the bill for transgender reassignment procedures.”
Personal attacks on LGBTQ candidates can also occur in progressive strongholds.
Ritchie Torres, who is a shoo-in to win his seat in New York’s 15th Congressional District and become the first Afro-Latinx LGBTQ person in Congress, was called derogatory names on social media that many interpreted to be homophobic.
Torres was called a “first class whore” in a now deleted tweet by Ed Mullins, an officer with the New York Police Department and president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association.
The comments came after Torres criticized the NYPD amid an increase in gun violence. Mullins said his comments “had nothing to do” with Torres’ “race, ethnicity or sexual orientation.”
“My comments had everything to do with his dangerous policies and worldview,” Mullins stated. “The city is burning and Councilman Torres wants to blame the police.”
Magni said attacks like this are not surprising. He said that many of the attacks this cycle are “based on homophobic tropes” that cast gay men as promiscuous or sexual predators.
“American voters are OK with LGBTQ candidates if LGBTQ candidates are sexless,” Magni said.
Despite Torres’ near guaranteed win in November, personal attacks could still have a negative impact.
“The way homophobic attacks work in progressive strongholds … is by hurting candidates in an indirect way,” Magni said. “Some of these attacks isolate LGBTQ candidates and force some allies to distance themselves.”
Like-minded organizations might put endorsements on hold or volunteers and donors may pause contributions, causing LGBTQ candidates to “lose access to resources and allies that are needed at critical moments,” Magni added.
For example, openly gay Illinois state House candidate Ken Mejia-Beal has been subjected to comments from his opponent, Republican Rep. Amy Grant, that target his race and sexuality.
On a recorded fundraising call over the summer, Grant said, “That’s all we need is another person in the Black Caucus.” She went on to say: “I just think that maybe he’s afraid of the reaction that people might give him. Not because he’s Black, but because of the way he talks. He’s all LGBTQ.”
Equality Illinois, a statewide LGBTQ advocacy group, condemnedthe remarks as “racist and homophobic.”
Grant subsequently apologized, saying she “deeply regret[s] the comments” and added that they “do not reflect my heart or my faith.”
Mejia-Beal, however, does not buy Grant’s apology and said she’s out of touch with the people in his district. “She is not a nice person,” he said, adding that Grant’s comments reflect racist and bigoted beliefs.
Grant’s campaign also circulated a mailer insinuating that Mejia-Beal was connected to a cover-up of a sexual assault over a decade ago.
“Right out of the gate, when she started attacking me, I didn’t understand where it was coming from,” Mejia-Beal said. “When I heard the audio, that’s when I had the a-ha moment.”
Mejia-Beal’s opponents may have perceived his candidacy as more vulnerable to attacks because of his multiple marginalized identities.
Magni recently conducted research exploring voters’ reactions to LGBTQ candidates and found that gay men — particularly Black gay men — were the most likely to be penalized by voters.
“In the U.S., Black candidates are penalized more than white candidates for being gay, in addition to the separate, individual penalties that they face for sexual orientation and race,” he said.
He added that this penalty “does not come from Black voters.” When compared to white voters, he added, “Black voters are now more supportive overall of LGBTQ candidates, since LGBTQ candidates tend to be Democrats.”
Personal attacks can also threaten LGBTQ candidates’ personal safety.
Jenna Wadsworth, an openly bisexual candidate for North Carolina’s commissioner of agriculture, received rape and death threats after posting a TikTok video criticizing President Donald Trump, according to the Advocate.
Todd Gloria, a member of the California State Assembly and candidate for mayor in San Diego, also received threats of physical violence that his campaign said were incited by his opponent, fellow Democrat Barbara Bry.
Gloria came under criticism after he voted for SB 145, a bill that addresses anti-LGBTQ discrimination in the application of the sex offender registry.
“We have reported the threats to the San Diego Police Department, and they are currently investigating,” Gloria said in a statement. “While I refuse to let this paralyze our campaign, voters deserve to know that this is what Barbara Bry’s campaign is inspiring. Her campaign is bringing out the worst of who we are. We are so much better than this, and San Diegans should hold her and her campaign accountable this November.”
Bry’s campaign disputed Gloria’s claims and stressed that Bry is a “long-time supporter of LGBTQ rights.”
“While she disagrees with Todd Gloria on the issue of requiring those convicted of sexual assault on children to be placed on the state’s sex offender registry, regardless of sexual orientation, her campaign has never raised this issue in campaign advertising,” Tom Shepard, Bry’s campaign consultant, told NBC News in an email. “This controversy is a result of verbal attacks on Gloria by a rival leader in San Diego’s LGBTQ community, who criticized Gloria’s vote on this issue.”
Targets of homophobic or transphobic ads may not even be LGBTQ. For example, the American Principles Project, a conservative think tank and PAC, released an ad targeting presidential candidate Joe Biden and Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., alleging that they support “policies which would allow biological males to compete in women’s sports and push children into dangerous, life-altering sex-change” procedures.
Magni said such ads are designed to “galvanize the most conservative base,” so these voters turn out on Election Day. The idea is to depict Biden and Peters “as out-of-touch liberals who threaten ‘traditions,’” Magni said.
While a record number of LGBTQ candidates are running for office this year, some advocates fear anti-LGBTQ attacks could derail this progress.
“The last few election cycles we have seen the number of LGBTQ candidates increase dramatically, but this trend is not inevitable,” Parker said. “Already we are hearing from LGBTQ elected officials that they may not seek higher office because they don’t want to expose their loved ones and families to these deeply personal attacks.”
Magni said these attacks could have a long-lasting impact.
“The damage that is done is not only to candidates right now but the potential chilling effects among younger LGBTQ people who are thinking about running,” he said. “It’s not only about scrutiny. Their personal lives are going to be distorted. Their dating lives are going to be weaponized … It makes them think twice.”
For her part, Titone is determined to keep campaigning and support the presence of other transgender women in office.
“When you are only 1 of 4 transgender legislators in the whole county, representation matters,” Titone said. “We cannot take a step back in trans representation at this point.”
More lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer candidates will appear on ballots across the country this November than ever before, according to a new report from the LGBTQ Victory Fund, a group that trains, supports and advocates for queer candidates.
These candidates are also more racially diverse than in past election cycles, according to the findings.
“A historic number of openly LGBTQ people are running for office this year and we have the opportunity to elect an unprecedented number on Election Day,” former Houston Mayor Annise Parker, president and CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, said in a statement. “While LGBTQ candidates are significantly more diverse than U.S. candidates overall, we must continue to break down the barriers LGBTQ people of color, women and trans people face when considering a run for office. Our government must reflect the diversity of America.”
Another record year
At least 1,006 openly LGBTQ people ran or are still running for office this election cycle, up from 716 in the 2018 midterms, according to Victory’s Out on the Trail report. Of these candidates, 574 will appear on the general election ballot in November, up from 432 in 2018, representing a 33 percent increase.
There are eight nonincumbent LGBTQ candidates running for the House of Representatives. If they all win, they would more than double LGBTQ representation in Congress’ lower chamber from seven to 15. There are currently two LGBTQ U.S. senators — Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz. — though neither is up for re-election this year.
Some of these congressional hopefuls are looking to unseat incumbent conservatives. Tracy Mitrano, a lawyer and cybersecurity expert, is one of them. She’s gunning for incumbent Republican Tom Reed’s job in New York’s 23rd Congressional District.
“This district can do better than what it has had as representation in Congress for the past 10 years,” Mitrano told local NBC affiliate WTEM-TV on Saturday. “Affordable health care, good education, infrastructure, the internet. Let’s get jobs back, but the only way you’re going to do that is if you lay the foundation of health and education and infrastructure.”
Former U.S. Air Force Capt. Gina Ortiz Jones is looking to beat Republican nominee Tony Gonzales, a Navy veteran, and flip Texas’ 23rd Congressional District for Democrats. If she wins, Jones would be both the first Filipino American woman to serve in Congress and the first openly gay representative from Texas.
“I really felt called to protect the opportunities that allowed me to grow up healthy, get an education and serve our country,” Jones told NBC News. “That made my story, my service, possible, and that’s why I’m so committed to fighting for working families in this district.”
Jon Hoadley is currently in his third term as a Michigan state representative. He is taking on incumbent Rep. Fred Upton, who opposed nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people and voted to ban same-sex marriage. Upton has represented the historically conservative district since 1986.
“For his entire political career, Fred Upton has worked to deny basic rights and protections to LGBTQ people – so it will be poetic justice when he is defeated by an openly gay challenger next November,” Parker said of the race. “Few 2020 Congressional races are more important than this one – a swing seat in a swing state with a stark choice for voters. Jon aims to uplift all constituents and put real people at the center of his decision-making, while Fred Upton continues to play cynical politics with people’s lives and well-being.”
If elected, Hoadley would be the first openly LGBTQ member of Congress from Michigan.
Increasing racial and ethnic diversity
A notable trend this year is the substantial increase in the number of LGBTQ candidates of color. Nearly a third of the LGBTQ candidates who ran this year are people of color, compared to 10 percent of all candidates — LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ — who ran in 2018, the report states.
Two favorites to win their congressional races are Democrats Ritchie Torres and Mondaire Jones, who are running for New York’s 15th and 17th Congressional districts, respectively,
Both Torres and Jones would be the first Black gay men elected to Congress if they were to prevail Nov. 3.
Rep. Sharice Davids won her House bid in 2018 and became the first openly gay Native American woman elected to Congress, and the first LGBTQ person Kansas has ever elected to federal office. She is back on the ballot this November, favored to beat Republican challenger Amanda Adkins, a former health care executive.
Georgette Gomez, currently a San Diego City council member, is running against another Democrat, Sara Jacobs, for the open seat left by Rep. Susan Davis’ retirement. If elected, Gomez would be the first Latina LGBTQ member of Congress.
Beyond the L and the G
Gay men and lesbians continue to make up the majority of LGBTQ candidates. However, bisexual, queer and pansexual candidates saw the greatest proportional growth since 2018, according to the report.
Compared to 2018, the number of transgender candidates decreased, but the number of candidates identifying as genderqueer, nonbinary or gender-nonconforming jumped considerably, from 6 to 25, marking a 325 percent increase from 2018.
For example, Louise Snodgrass is hoping to become the first genderqueer state legislator in South Dakota.
While the overall number of transgender individuals running for office this cycle went down, those who are running are serious contenders and could have an important impact at the state level. For example, Sarah McBride is on track to become the first openly transgender person elected to Delaware’s General Assembly and the first transgender state senator anywhere in the U.S.
After winning the Democratic primary in August, Taylor Small is a shoo-in to become the first openly transgender state legislator in Vermont. And in Kansas, Stephanie Byers is also favored to win her race against Republican Cyndi Howerton to fill the open seat in the state legislature. If elected, Byers would become the first openly transgender legislator in the Kansas House of Representatives.
Jessica Katzenmeyer is running for Wisconsin State Assembly, and Madeline Eden is running for the Texas House of Representatives. If elected, both women would be the first openly transgender lawmakers in their states’ legislatures.
Shifting geography of LGBTQ candidates
California, Texas and Florida boast the highest number of LGBTQ candidates running in 2020, according to the Victory Fund. These candidates could make an especially big impact on the Texas House of Representatives, where Democrats need to pick up nine seats to flip that chamber. Several LGBTQ candidates are in key races, especially out lesbians Ann Johnson and Eliz Markowitz.
Alabama is the only state this cycle that has no openly LGBTQ person running for office at any level, according to the report. At present, State Rep. Neil Rafferty is the only openly LGBTQ person in office in Alabama.
Five states — Alaska, Tennessee, Louisiana, Delaware and Mississippi — have never elected an openly LGBTQ state legislator, though that could soon change for three of them. In addition to McBride in Delaware, lesbian Lyn Franks is running for the state Legislature in Alaska, and Torrey Harris, a bisexual man, and Brandon Thomas, a gay man, are running in Tennessee.
While the number of openly lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer elected officials across the U.S. has been steadily increasing, just 0.17 percent of the country’s roughly half million elected officials are LGBTQ, according to the Victory Institute. In order for LGBTQ people — who make up an estimated 5 percent of the U.S. population — to achieve “equitable representation,” there would need to be 22,544 more of them in elected office, according to the organization.
Transgender children who receive gender-affirming medical care earlier in their lives are less likely to experience mental health issues like depression and anxiety, according to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics.
“The study highlights that timely access to gender-affirming medical care is really important for youth with gender dysphoria,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Julia C. Sorbara, a pediatric endocrinologist at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. Gender dysphoriainvolves a conflict between an individual’s sex assigned at birth and their gender identity.
The study found that transgender youths who sought that type of care — which, for minors, most commonly includes puberty blockers, hormones or both — at a later age and further into puberty were more distressed and more likely to suffer from mental health issues.
“A major part of puberty is developing physical changes, and for youth with gender dysphoria, they begin to develop physical changes that are not in keeping with the gender they identify,” Sorbara said. “This can be very distressing for these young people.”
The study included 300 transgender minors aged 10 to 17 who were being treated at the Hospital for Sick Children. The researchers tracked their ages at the time they first sought care at the Toronto clinic and their reported difficulties with mental health.
More than three-quarters of the youths who went to Sorbara’s clinic reported mental health problems, including depression and anxiety, according to the study.
“The most common were depressive and anxiety disorders, as well as having considered suicide at some point — unfortunately not so out of keeping with what’s been reported from other clinics,” Sorbara said.
Researchers found that those issues were more likely the older the children were when they arrived at the clinic. When compared to children ages 10 to 15, children older than 15 were more likely to have reported diagnoses of depression (46 percent vs. 30 percent) and to have self-harmed (40 percent vs. 28 percent), considered suicide (52 percent vs. 40 percent), attempted suicide (17 percent vs. 9 percent) and required psychoactive medications (36 percent vs. 23 percent).
Sorbara’s study follows another study, also published in Pediatrics, that found that transgender individuals who received puberty blockers during adolescence had lower risks of suicidal thoughts as adults than those who wanted the medication but could not get access to it.
Suicide is a significant problem facing transgender children and adults. The 2020 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health by The Trevor Project, an LGBTQ youth crisis intervention and suicide prevention organization, found that 40 percent of LGBTQ youths said they have “seriously considered” attempting suicide in the past year.
A 2019 report from the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law found a connection between experiences of discrimination, including in medical care, and suicidality for transgender adults, with participants who had experienced discrimination being twice as likely to have attempted suicide compared to those who had not experienced discrimination.
Another recent study found that almost 60 percent of transgender adults were close to someone who has attempted suicide and 25 percent knew someone who had committed suicide and that such exposure has negative impacts on their mental health.
Sorbara also noted that participants in her team’s study were only those “who want to and can access care.” She said many transgender children and adolescents may want or would benefit from such care but are unable to get access to it. She said she hopes her study lends “support to efforts to ensure this care is readily available for the youth that need it.”
The ability of transgender youths to receive gender-affirming medical care has become a political issue, with several states considering measures this legislative session to block access to that type of care. Republican legislators in at least eight states have introduced proposals that would punish doctors and other medical professionals who provide the kind of gender-affirming medical care described in Sorbara’s study. Bills in Missouri and New Hampshire called such care “child abuse.”
In February, over 200 medical professionals signed a letter opposing the bills on the grounds that they “violate the rights and freedoms of transgender young people.”
“Many credible studies of trans youth populations have demonstrated that gender-affirming care is linked to significantly reduced rates of depression, anxiety, substance abuse and suicide attempts,” the letter says. “To put it plainly, gender-affirming care saves lives and allows trans young people to thrive.”
Black LGBTQ Americans are disproportionately affected by the economic downturn fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report.
An online survey of 10,000 people across the U.S., conducted from April to July by LGBTQ advocacy group Human Rights Campaign and PSB Insights, found that Black LGBTQ respondents fared worse than both the Black population and the LGBTQ population along every economic indicator measured.
“The data make clear what we have long known: that those living at the intersections of multiply marginalized identities face harsher consequences of the pandemic.”
ALPHONSO DAVID, HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN
“We know Black people are dying from COVID-19 at extremely alarming rates. Unfortunately, this new research shows Black people and Black LGBTQ people are suffering disproportionate economic inequities,” HRC President Alphonso David said in a statement. “The data make clear what we have long known: that those living at the intersections of multiply marginalized identities face harsher consequences of the pandemic.”
The most recent report builds on prior studies conducted by HRC and PSB Insights that found LGBTQ people — particularlytransgender people of color — are more likely to have been economically affected as a result of the pandemic.
‘Multiple marginalized identities’
The study found that Black LGBTQ people were more likely to have had their jobs affected by the pandemic.
“Within the LGBTQ community, many at the intersection of multiple marginalized identities are at some of the greatest risk of facing the economic fallout from COVID-19,” the report states.
Specifically, 31 percent of Black LGBTQ respondents to the survey reported a reduction in their work hours, compared to 23 percent of all Black respondents and 28 percent of all LGBTQ respondents.
Black LGBTQ people were also more likely to have lost their jobs: 18 percent of Black LGBTQ respondents became unemployed, compared to 16 percent of both all Black respondents and all LGBTQ respondents.
J. Maurice McCants-Pearsall, the HRC’s director HIV and health equity, told NBC News that Black people are overrepresented in sectors of the economy like food service and retail most likely to be affected by the economic fallout of the pandemic and most likely to be exposed to the virus.
“They are classified as essential workers, but a lot of them went without proper [personal protective equipment] and supplies,” he said. “They couldn’t afford not to show up at work, and they have to make money to earn a living for themselves and their families.”
According to the report, Black LGBTQ people are more likely to have changed the way their households are spending and to be under financial stress as a result of the pandemic.
Over one third (36 percent) of Black LGBTQ respondents reported having changed their household budgets, compared to 27 percent of all Black respondents and 30 percent of LGBTQ respondents. One in five Black LGBTQ respondents has checked to see if their bank account was in overdraft, whereas 14 percent of both all Black respondents and all LGBTQ respondents reported the same.
Black LGBTQ people were more likely to request delays in bills and rent. Twenty-one percent of the Black LGBTQ people surveyed had asked for delays in paying their bills, compared to 17 percent of Black respondents and 14 percent of LGBTQ respondents. Nearly a quarter (23 percent) of Black LGBTQ respondents had requested delays in paying their rent, compared to 12 percent of Black respondents and 11 percent of LGBTQ respondents.
‘Racism is a public health issue’
The HRC study falls in line with existing research that demonstrates that Black Americans are disproportionately affected by the virus.
“Racism is a public health issue” McCants-Pearsall said. “If we don’t address structural and social racism, we can’t expect to have improved outcomes for communities of color, in particular Black communities.”
McCants-Pearsall said the U.S. can apply the lessons learned from the HIV epidemic for communities of color to the response to COVID-19.
“Communities of color, particularly Black gay men, are disproportionately impacted by HIV,” McCants-Pearsall said. “We are seeing the same situation.”
For McCants-Pearsall, better data collection is key to addressing economic and health disparities among LGBTQ people, people of color and those at the intersection of the two groups.
In a letter to Health Secretary Alex Azar, HRC joined racial justice organizations in a campaign demanding that the agency compile accurate data as it relates to LGBTQ people of color in the U.S.
“We can use that data to advocate for candidates, to argue for more resources,” McCants-Pearsall said. “It gives us the ability to show decision makers these are populations that are being disproportionately impacted. This is data that shows that we need to make sure that those resources got to those communities.”
“If we don’t have that data, we are just screaming,” he added.