By: Nicole Lashomb*/Editor-in-Chief—
Earlier this month, the social media stratosphere flooded with images and sentiment of hope and change, a change created at the polls in the November 2018 midterm elections. This year was unlike any other, which led to a record number of women and LGBTQ members being sworn in to serve in the 116th Congress.
Though such a political upheaval was inevitable at some point, there could not have been a more appropriate time in our nation’s history as abusive, prejudiced, misogynistic, and anti-LGBTQ sentiments held the ideals of freedom hostage from within the walls of the White House. Undoubtedly, Trump has been the most publicly vile president in modern American politics, rooted in his discriminatory actions and remarks to numerous allegations of sexual abuse of women, to the attempt of stripping away civil rights from our LGBTQ community, etc., and the country isn’t having any more of it.
A New Era of Governing
The new Congress sworn in on Jan. 3 includes 125 women—18 more than the preceding Congress. The nearly 20 percent jump of women Congressional leaders are virtually all pro-choice, Democratic women who support policies to empower women and marginalized people. This is the most female representation we’ve seen to date. Likewise, 10 openly LGBTQ people were also sworn in earlier this month making the results of the November elections historical. The outcome, thus, makes a clear distinction in the values and beliefs of the modern day American people. The good ole boys club is “out” and diversity and inclusion are “in.”
“A historic number of LGBTQ people will serve in the new U.S. Congress and their influence will shape the debate on equality legislation and issues moving forward,” said Mayor Annise Parker, President & CEO of LGBTQ Victory Institute. “In the U.S. Senate, those opposed to the Equality Act will now need to look to openly LGBTQ Senators in the eyes and tell them their lives are not worth protecting. In the U.S. House, Speaker Pelosi will have eight LGBTQ Representatives to consult about how various healthcare or criminal justice reform policies uniquely affect our community. The relationships these LGBTQ lawmakers will build with their colleagues on Capitol Hill are transformative, and with an unprecedented number of women and people of color also joining the 116th Congress, equality issues will finally receive the attention they deserve.”
Half of the 10 LGBTQ members are women and two are people of color. This also gives rise to the importance of intersectionality and honoring individual and collective experiences to equal a greater whole, a more responsible one, rooted in authenticity of identities.
Given the iron fist stronghold of the current presidential administration, the elected representation says something—loudly. The weeks and months ahead will prove just how effectively women & other marginalized groups problem solve and strategize when compared to those who held in those very seats before them. And, thankfully so.
Critical issues like healthcare, education, and gun reform have largely been ignored by many in the Republican-led, white, cisgender male-dominated Congress in the past years. Instead, a focus has been placed on issues that are riddled in flexing military power with a refusal to compromise, which has lead to numerous government shutdowns, causing millions of Americans to suffer. Xenophobic initiatives like the border wall, stripping women of reproductive health rights, dishonoring LGBTQ service members, and stripping away LGBTQ rights grounded in caveman-like ideals have been on an ever-swinging pendulum.
Though a long time coming, unequivocally, this is the most diverse Congress ever to join the governing ranks. The 116th Congress has 125 women, more than 50 black members, 39 Hispanic members, two Muslim and two Native American women. Finally, it is starting to shape up to be the United States where we should all have a voice and a seat at the table—“we the people,” as it should have always been.
Women in Congress
Scrolling through my own social media feeds have left me with a great sense of pride. Seeing so many women uplifting each other with words and actions rippled an inexplicable sense of solidarity through me, catapulted by what I’m witnessing now. For the first time, it actually feels like “yes, we can” and, we did. Perhaps that sentiment is most explained through the concept of sisterhood. Though it has always been of great importance in my personal life, women, especially progressive women, have rarely been represented in powerful government positions. That chance to govern was often stripped from our potential. But, the tide has changed.
More women than ever before ran for office in 2018 and won. “We” won all across the county and we won in spades. Last year was dubbed the “year of the woman.” This year is version 2.0!
I’m in awe and inspired by these fierce Congresswomen who came out swinging with full force. And, I know I am not the only one who shares this feeling of liberation. Locally, as municipal races heat up, I learn of more and more women announcing their candidacy. Perhaps, I will not see eye-to-eye with some of them. That is perfectly fine too. But, what I do see eye-to-eye with is a reflection of sisterhood; of not being held back politically according to gender, and of knowing it is not only possible but also plausible.
Cheers to all the women and people from other marginalized groups who ran for Congress in 2018 and had the audacity to dare, to challenge, to envision, to dream and … to win. We are all witnessing her-stories and it’s a grand view from where I am standing.
*Nicole Lashomb is the Editor-in-Chief of The Rainbow Times, a professional vocalist and the Co-Executive Director of Project Out. Nicole holds an MBA from Marylhurst University and a BM from the esteemed Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam. She can be reached at [email protected].