Palm Springs, already an international tourist destination, is once again basking in the spotlight as the city is home to the first entirely LGBTQ City Council in the nation, but not every city shares in such notoriety.
From the far reaches of the globe, the Palm Springs stage on which Mayor Robert Moon, Geoff Kors, J.R. Roberts, Lisa Middleton and Christy Holstege perch is being watched.
The LGBTQ community is cheering.
Frank Bruni, a New York Times columnist, penned a column with the title, “It’s a Gay, Gay, Gay Government.”
The Advocate, the oldest and largest LGBT publication in the country, said the “queer city council is just the beginning for roaring Palm Springs.
The Times of London said, “The once conservative city of Palm Springs, desert redoubt of the Rat Pack and golfing Republicans, has elected a municipal government made up of gay, transgender or bisexual councilors.”
The head-swelling headlines and international attention bestowed upon the part-time City Council take your breath away.
As the adage goes, with great power comes great responsibility.
These five men and women will be held up as an example for what is possible in the wake of Victory Institute’s “Out for America” report. Victory Institute works to increase the number of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in public office and to provide programming, service, and other support to ensure their success.
The report and interactive “Out for America map” provide the most comprehensive look ever at LGBTQ elected officials in the United States. The report provides demographic information for the nearly 450 known LGBTQ elected officials in the U.S. and documents the severe underrepresentation of LGBTQ people in key positions of power.
Among the report’s key findings:
- 448 known LGBTQ elected officials are currently serving in the U.S., just 0.1 percent of all elected officials nationwide;
- 21,307 more LGBTQ elected officials must be elected to achieve equitable representation;
- Just 20.5 percent of LGBTQ elected officials are people of color; and
- Only 1.8 percent of LGBTQ elected officials are transgender.
“The severe under-representation of LGBTQ people in elected positions – especially LGBTQ people of color and transgender people – is an urgent call to arms for LGBTQ leaders to run for office and be our voice in the halls of power,” Aisha C. Moodie-Mills, president and CEO of Victory Institute said in a prepared statement. “When LGBTQ elected officials are in the room, it humanizes our lives, changes the debate and leads to more inclusive legislation. The Out for America report documents the enormous work that needs to be done to ensure our people are in those rooms – and the long road ahead before equitable representation is achieved.”
In the November Palm Springs City Council election, Middleton became the first out transgender person elected to a non-judicial office in California. She was immediately bombarded with media attention and requests for interviews giving her multiple platforms on which to speak about issues of equality, diversity and LGBTQ significance.
She can easily serve as a role model for others who wrestle with their sexuality or fear coming out about being gay or lesbian – even to aspiring politicians.
“I don’t think anyone can plan to be a role model,” Middleton told Uken Report. “You do your job as well as you can and if others find that admirable then you suddenly find that people are recognizing you. I will have the opportunity through Equality California, through Victory Fund … and other places nationally to be able to talk about my experience and why diversity and inclusion makes cities stronger not weaker.”
The under-representation of LGBTQ people in elected positions is also demonstrated on the Out for America interactive map, which allows users to search for elected officials by sexual orientation, gender identity, race/ethnicity, office level and geography. It is the first publicly available online resource to provide such information. Both the report and map were released at the opening of the International LGBTQ Leaders Conference in Washington, DC, where more than 500 LGBTQ elected officials and leaders are gathering to strategize how to increase LGBTQ representation in government and move forward equality.