Growing up underrepresented in local government

Lancaster PA
Feeling represented in television and government is important to everyone. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Cindy Vincente

Staff Writer

Growing up Queer, gender non-conforming, poor, and Latinx (gender-expansive variation of Latino) I never saw people who looked like me represented in politics. Except when TV political analysts and commentators spoke of me, and people like me, as a problem.

I heard and watched as various aspects of my identities were criticized, debated, and in some cases, verbally assaulted.

As a naturally observant adolescent, I watched man after man after man after man run for office, chair the Senate, author and introduce legislation, and become President of the United States.

I did not recognize any major aspects of my identity within the folks holding political power.

In my teens, no openly Queer person, almost no Latinx representation, and very, very few women.

How does this shape the aspirations of a child? Well, that is debatable and contingent upon extraneous factors—some of which we can control, and most of which we cannot.

What I can firmly tell you is that according to Center for American Women and Politics, women compose a little less than 25% of State Legislature, 21% in the United States Senate, about 19% of the United States Congress, and 10% of Governorships across the country.

With women comprising half of the United States estimated population (according to the 2015 census data), these figures tell a story of a severe disenfranchisement of women.

Disenfranchisement does not end there.

According to the Latino Victory Project, approximately 1% of all state and federal elected officials are ‘Hispanic,’ and it was just last year that we elected our first Latina to U.S. Senate.

This, of course, is especially dim considering that Latinx make up approximately 17% of the U.S. population, according to the 2015 Census estimates.

Even though politicians—unashamedly—hound us for our votes every four years. Even though aspects of our identity—documentation status, employment status, public benefits status, language preference—are openly dissected and debated.

So, the story this conveys to me is that Latinx are primarily worthy of discussion—as if we are not in the room, —but not worthy of being elected, or even taught the first step toward running for local seats.

Queer (aka LGBTQ) representation in American politics is also relentlessly lagging. As discussed in The Washington Post, “out” LGBTQ folks constitute a little over 1% of all state-level elected officials in the United States.

Sadly, there are almost no “out” transgender elected officials.

We, however, in the great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, are extremely lucky to have one of the highest ranking “out” transgender appointed officials in the country, the brilliant Dr. Rachel Levine, our Physician General.

These statistics and my interpretation of their meaning is based on the larger narrative which has historically been: politics is a nearly exclusive (white, straight, cisgender) boys club.

I am going to change that and in some ways I already have.

I serve as Chair of a local City Council campaign, and am consulting with several other municipal-level campaigns.

My privileged duty, even beyond ensuring my candidates win, is to identify and incite any political interest/gift in women, Queer folks, and people of color in Lancaster.

My work may never be complete, but I am encouraged daily by the brilliance I see in my female, Queer, and of color cohorts.

Our goal is to be the representation in politics and political power that I—Latinx, Queer, gender non-conforming, and poor—did not have in my youth; to be the mirror for the next Queer and Brown surge of political power and political voice in OUR country.

The revolution will be female, colorful, and Queer.