Washington, DC GLAAD, the world's leading LGBTQ media advocacy organization, and LGBTQ+ Victory Institute, the only national organization dedicated to elevating openly LGBTQ+ leaders who further equality at all levels of government, have issued statements in support of Rep. Zooey Zephyr, the first and only openly transgender member of the Montana House of Representatives.
Rep. Zephyr has been threatened with censure from her colleagues and was prevented from being allowed to participate in a floor debate about a proposed ban on health care for transgender youth earlier this week. She faces a possible disciplinary vote this afternoon.
The attempt to censure Rep. Zephyr is the latest effort to discipline or punish out LGBTQ elected officials, allies, and community members across the country from signaling public support for LGBTQ people and progressive issues. Rep. Mauree Turner, Oklahoma's first and only out nonbinary state lawmaker, was censured in early March for helping a demonstrator; Rep. Justin Jones and Rep. Justin Pearson of Tennessee were both expelled from the legislature for participating with constituents protesting a lack of action for gun safety, while a white colleague was spared from expulsion for the same alleged violation.
In response to the news, Rep. Zephyr stated: "I will do as I have always donerise on behalf of my constituents, in defense of my community, & for democracy itself." [ twitter.com/ZoAndBehold .]
Elliot Imse, Executive Director (he/him) of Victory Institute, issued the following statement:
"For anti-LGBTQ lawmakers to launch a verbal and legislative war against transgender Montanans and censure the state's only trans lawmaker for telling the truth that they will have blood on their hands is destructive and absurd. Her comment is incomparable to the harmful and hateful rhetoric of these anti-LGBTQ lawmakers and incomparable to the undeniable harm this legislation will have on trans people. Rep. Zephyr's voice is needed more than ever at this moment and her opponents understand that. It is the reason they are determined to silence her.
"Government representation is essential for LGBTQ+ community members who rarely see themselves reflected in positions of power, especially in conservative states like Montana. Transgender people must be part of the conversations about their lives."
Sarah Kate Ellis (she/her/hers), CEO and President of GLAAD, issued the following statement:
"The silencing and threats of censure and expulsion against Rep. Zephyr for speaking up in support of transgender Montanans is an attack on our nation's democratic ideals and free speech values. It's an assault on democracy to suppress the already marginalized and under-represented voices of LGBTQ people and people of color, and the lawmakers who were duly elected to represent them. The attack against Rep. Zephyr is the latest in a disturbing trend across the country as LGBTQ and ally lawmakers in Tennessee, Oklahoma, and other states have also faced recent threats of censure simply for speaking up for their constituents. Speaking up is literally what they were elected to do. This news is a strong reminder that our voices are our power. When we speak, extremist lawmakers can't help but hear us."
In the past few months, a number of additional elected officials and/or protestors at state capitals have faced disciplinary action for vocalizing their support for LGBTQ people or progressive issues:
Three state lawmakers in Tennessee faced disciplinary action following their participation in a gun violence protest shortly after a school shooting in Nashville. Resolutions for expulsions of two of the three lawmakers two black men, Rep. Justin Jones and Rep. Justin Pearson passed with a two-thirds majority, while the third a white woman, Rep. Gloria Johnson failed to pass by one vote. [ www.glaad.org/releases/tennessee-threehttps://www.glaad.org/releases/tennessee-three ] (The lawmakers were all later reinstated.)
In Oklahoma, protestors opposing a ban on health care for transgender residents were escorted out of a House floor hearing, one of whom a transgender man was thrown by a state trooper to the floor of a stairwell and handcuffed as he was held face down.
Shortly afterwards, Republican House leaders announced a censure of Rep. Mauree Turner [ www.glaad.org/releases/glaad-and-freedom-oklahoma-respond-censuring-rep-mauree-turner ], a black Muslim legislator and Oklahoma's first and only nonbinary elected representative, claiming that Rep. Turner "impeded law enforcement" by helping one of the protestors in their office. Rep. Turner continues to be censured to date as Oklahoma legislators continue considering a slate of anti-LGBTQ bills.
More than 500 anti-LGBTQ bills have been proposed in state legislatures in 2023 seeking to ban health care for transgender Americans, prohibit transgender youth from being allowed to participate on school sports teams, prohibit any mention of LGBTQ people or issues in school curriculums, criminalize drag performances and Pride celebrations, and more.
LGBTQ Political Representation
LGBTQ people make up 7.1% of the population but only a small number of elected officials, although the number has increased over the past few years:
Number of trans / nonbinary elected officials according to the LGBTQ+ Victory Institute:
The number of openly nonbinary elected officials has grown from five in 2019 to 20 in 2023.
The number of openly transgender men in elected office has grown from five in 2019 to nine in 2023.
The number of transgender women in elected office has grown from 15 in 2019 to 41 in 2023.
In total, the number of openly transgender/ nonbinary elected officials has increased from 25 in 2019 to at least 70 in 2023.
About GLAAD: GLAAD rewrites the script for LGBTQ acceptance. As a dynamic media force, GLAAD tackles tough issues to shape the narrative and provoke dialogue that leads to cultural change. GLAAD protects all that has been accomplished and creates a world where everyone can live the life they love. For more information, please visit www.glaad.org or connect with GLAAD on Facebook and Twitter.
About LGBTQ+ Victory Institute: LGBTQ+ Victory Institute is the only global organization dedicated to elevating openly LGBTQ+ leaders who further equality at all levels of government. For more information, please visit victoryinstitute.org or connect with Victory Institute on Facebook and Twitter.