Diversity milestones from the 2020 Election

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris was not alone in making history

Virginia Laurie

While many left-leaning voters felt discouraged by the lack of a landslide Democratic victory and widespread repudiation of the Trump administration, there were significant gains made in the diversity of elected officials in the 2020 election, especially within the LGBTQ+ community. 

According to the LGBTQ+ Victory Fund, there are nine LGBTQ+ members slated to serve in the chamber in the 117th Congress — a “historic number.”  

Sarah McBride became the US’s first openly transgender state senator and the country’s highest ranking openly transgender legislator. She is also Delaware’s first out LGBTQ+ person elected to the state’s legislature.

“We did it,” McBride said via Twitter, “I hope tonight shows an LGBTQ kid that our democracy is big enough for them, too.”

Missouri activist and community organizer Cori Bush, who first became involved in politics following the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson in 2014, became the first Black woman elected to Congress in the state’s history. 

In New York, Ritchie Torres and Mondaire Jones became the first openly gay Black men elected to Congress.

Iman Jodeh, the daughter of Palestinian immigrants, joined the Colorado House of Representatives, becoming Colorado’s first Muslim lawmaker. 

Even though Florida went red for Trump, Shevrin Jones became the first out LGBTQ+ person elected to Florida’s state senate. Michele Rayner-Goolsby became the first openly queer Black woman elected to the Florida House of Representatives. 

Kim Jackson became Georgia’s first openly LGBTQ+ state senator. Torrey Harris became the first out LGBTQ+ member of Tennessee’s state legislature. Taylor Small became the first openly transgender member of Vermont’s state legislature. 

Stephanie Byers, a member of the Chickasaw Nation, became the first openly transgender lawmaker ever elected in Kansas and the first transgender person of Native heritage ever elected to any state legislature. 

“It’s an affirmation on humanity,” Byers said, “The fact that we were able to do this, that the people in House District 86 elected me.”

Former Houston Mayor and CEO and President of the LGBTQ+ Victory Fund Annise Parker issued an official statement on Byers’ win in Kansas.

“At a time when trans people are targeted with hateful policies and legislation by the Trump administration and in so many state legislatures, Stephanie’s race is a powerful reminder of where our country is headed.”

Another LGBTQ+ Indigenous candidate, Sharice Davids of Kansas retained her seat in the U.S. House of Representatives after first winning during the big blue wave of 2018. 

Kamala Harris notably made history as the first Black, female and South Asian U.S. vice president-elect. But it’s important to celebrate those grassroots political campaigns, legislators and activists (like Stacey Abrams in Georgia) who helped elect Harris to her position. 

It’s important to celebrate local wins and acknowledge those in politics who will be able to affect positive change from the bottom up as we look forward to a more representative American democracy.