Six Historic Wins for LGBTQ+ Candidates From Election Day 2021

At least 410 out candidates ran for office in the U.S. this year.

Main image: Virginia state legislator Danica Roem, who won her bid for reelection.

Over 240 openly LGBTQ+ candidates are appearing on ballots across 20 states this month, and on Tuesday (November 2) several of them scored historic wins.

At least 410 LGBTQ+ people ran for office in the United States in 2021, a record high for any odd-numbered year, according to political action committee LGBTQ Victory Fund. About 100 of those candidates ran in elections held on November 2 — and most of them won. From the first nonbinary person elected to a U.S. judiciary to the largest number of LGBTQ+ New York City Council members elected at once, these are six headlines from election night 2021 that made LGBTQ+ history.

  1. Christopher Coburn’s groundbreaking win in Montana

    Christopher Coburn won one of two open spots on the Bozeman City Commission for a four-year term, making him the first Black LGBTQ+ person elected to public office in all of Montana. After growing up with a single mom who used public assistance programs, he is now passionate about public health. Coburn holds a Master’s degree in Public Health, a job with a nonprofit health care system, and a position on a local board of health.

    “I exist at the intersection of my Blackness and queerness in every space I’m in — and it really is such an honor to bring representation and visibility to folks like me who don’t usually see themselves in decision-making spaces,” he posted on Facebook the Friday before his win.

  2. New York City’s most queer-inclusive Council yet

    Scott Heins/Getty Images

    Erik Bottcher (District 3), Tiffany Cabán (District 22, pictured above), Crystal Hudson (District 35), Kristin Richardson Jordan (District 9), Chi Ossé (District 36), and Lynn Schulman (District 29) all won seats on the 51-person New York City Council. They bring the total number of out councilmembers from four to six, and break the record for the most out candidates elected to the council at once.

    Hudson and Richardson are the first two out Black LGBTQ+ women ever elected to the council, and Ossé, 23, is the youngest councilmember ever.

  3. Xander Orenstein’s U.S. judiciary victory

    Despite not being a lawyer, Xander Orenstein of Pittsburgh was inspired to run for a judicial seat after the events of 2020 shined a light on inequities of the justice system. After losing their job when the pandemic hit, Orenstein used their skills as an organizer to campaign for a judicial seat on the Allegheny County (PA) Magisterial District Court.

    They beat out the incumbent judge in May’s primary election by just 40 votes and won Tuesday’s election unopposed, becoming the first nonbinary person elected not only to the Pennsylvania judiciary but to any U.S. judiciary. “Laws tend to be enforced and upheld in ways that inflict harm upon the most vulnerable,” Orenstein told NBC News last week. “As magistrate, I hope to mitigate the harm done to those for whom the system was not intentionally built, and to center justice around restoration, community building, and compassion rather than around punishment.”

  4. Danica Roem’s successful bid for reelection

    The Washington Post via Getty Images

    Out trans candidate Danica Roem has faced an anti-LGBTQ+ opponent in a race for the Virginia House of Delegates three times. She has emerged victorious every time.

    Roem will remain the longest-serving out trans state legislator in the country since becoming the first in 2017. Her win is a bright spot of news in a state where anti-LGBTQ+ politician Glenn Youngkin won the gubernatorial race after using trans children as pawns in his campaign.

  5. Thu Nguyen’s trailblazing win in Massachusetts

    Thu Nguyen became the first nonbinary person elected to public office in the state of Massachusetts when they won their race for one of the six at-large seats on the Worcester City Council on Tuesday. A Vietnamese-American refugee, Nguyen will also be the first person of Southeast Asian descent to serve on the council.

    “Thu shattered a rainbow ceiling in Massachusetts and will join a growing number of nonbinary elected officials serving across the nation. Their victory proves voters look beyond gender identity and will elect leaders with the qualifications and drive to improve people’s lives,” Mayor Annise Parker, president and CEO of LGBTQ Victory Fund, said in a statement. Nguyen is now one of nine openly nonbinary elected officials in the country.

  6. Dion Manley’s victory in Ohio

    Dion Manley will be one of just five out transgender men serving in elected office in the U.S. after winning a seat on the Gahanna Jefferson School Board. His victory comes at a time when trans inclusion in schools is a cultural lightning rod.

    After becoming the first openly trans person elected to public office in Ohio, Manley posted to his campaign Facebook page, “Together we achieved history making record-setting involvement. This is all for my daughter, who my running for school board is all about and her amazing teachers.”

With the number of out LGBTQ+ candidates increasing every year (there was an 18.5% increase from November 2019 to November 2021), these groundbreaking victories will only keep coming. However, the LGBTQ Victory Institute says another 28,116 out candidates would need to be elected to achieve truly equitable representation.

Sarah Prager is the author of three books on LGBTQ+ history and her writing has also appeared in the New York Times, The Atlantic, National Geographic, NBC News, and many other outlets.
@Sarah_Prager