Listen, I know you have a lot on your mind. Westboro Baptist Church recently reared its ugly heads in our community; winter is on its way, so homeless LGBTQ youth will soon struggle even more than usual; Pride season is over and many of us have been shuffled back into our closets. It all sucks, and sometimes the idea of putting one more worry on your plate is too much.
But we've got another problem. A new study out of the University of California, Los Angeles’ Williams Institute has found that 21 percent of LGBT adults aren't registered to vote, compared to 17 percent of cisgender heterosexuals.
No one can afford to be apolitical right now, least of all the queer community. If we’ve learned anything in the 50 years since the Stonewall Riots, it’s that civic engagement (or civic enragement, depending on the issue) is how we push our community forward and demand equal treatment under the law. While many LGBTQ people attend protests and rallies, organize our communities and support each other, we have to vote, too. It’s not sexy; it’s often demoralizing and aggravating, but we have to vote.
This applies to the presidential election next year, obviously, but state and municipal elections are on Nov. 5 — ballots have already been mailed — and it’s just as important to vote in elections that affect our local communities.
Truth is, when you are a minority in this world, all politics affect you, either directly or through a sort of legislative butterfly effect. Consider: On Oct. 9, we ran a column about Gay-Straight Alliance student clubs in Academy School District 20. Those wouldn’t happen without a supportive school board. On Sept. 29, the Indy wrote about how our local LGBTQ youth center, Inside Out Youth Services, receives multi-year program funding from the state — and those grants exist because of the people we have put in power.
Plus, too many of us sat out the 2016 presidential election, remember? And now Donald Trump’s administration has stuffed federal courts, including the highest court in the country, with conservative judges who — as I write this — are debating whether or not it’s legal to fire someone for being transgender. And Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch could serve on the U.S. Supreme Court for decades. Imagine how many LGBTQ issues they may hear.
True, voting isn’t the only way to make social change, and our rallies and protests are so, so important — it’s what our movement was founded on, after all. But we must pursue every avenue available to us to make this world a free and safe place.
Besides, we’ve finally reached a point in society where candidates want to openly show support for us — Democrats especially, considering that 85 percent of LGBT voters (according to that UCLA study) aren’t Republican. Everyone wants that gay vote.
The Democratic National Committee’s official website even offers resources for candidates to learn about LGBTQ rights and the specific challenges we face as voters.
“Acknowledging the diversity of the LGBTQ community is key in order to understand the impact of voter suppression tactics used on the community,” the DNC says. “People of color and people under 30 are more likely to identify as LGBTQ. LGBTQ people are more likely to be a part of the disability community than their heterosexual counterparts. Additionally, low-income people identify with the LGBTQ community at higher rates than people with higher incomes. … All of these factors make LGBTQ community members particularly susceptible to voter suppression schemes aimed to disenfranchise communities likely to vote for Democrats: people of color, immigrants, young people, and low-income people.”
All this to say that there are many powers pushing against us — people and institutions that don’t want our voices to be heard. If for no other reason, register to vote out of spite.
Don’t you dare let the bastards keep you down.