November 11, 2020
Last week’s U.S. general election saw the political wins of several women and people of marginalized genders making history. In our industry we know as well as anyone the importance of representation, making especially resonant the words of Vice President elect Kamala Harris in her address on Saturday, November 7: “While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last, because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.”
Harris will be the first woman to hold the office of Vice President, as well as being the first Black person and the first Asian-American person, born to a father who immigrated from Jamaica and a mother who immigrated from India.
This election also marks significant landmarks for women in races around the country, such as Jessica Benham, the first bisexual woman elected to the Pennsylvania legislature, who is also among the nation’s few lawmakers with autism; Cori Bush, the first Black woman to represent Missouri in Congress; Stephanie Byers, the first openly trans Native American ever elected to office in the United States, who was elected to the Kansas House of Representatives; New Mexico’s Yvette Herrell and Teresa Leger Fernandez, among the first Native American women elected to Congress; Kim Jackson, the first LGBTQ Georgia State Senator and one of the few Black LGBTQ women state senators in the nation; Cynthia Lummis, Wyoming’s first woman senator; Delaware’s Sarah McBride, the nation’s first trans state senator; Michele Rayner-Goolsby, the first openly queer Black woman elected to the Florida legislature; Taylor Small, the first out trans member of Vermont’s House of Representatives; and Mauree Turner, who is both the first publicly non-binary U.S. state lawmaker and the first Muslim member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives.
As Theresa Vargas writes for The Washington Post, “election ‘firsts’ are reason for celebration. They are societal victories that take us closer to making sure the people who speak for us more closely represent us.”
Vargas continues that the word “first” can also be troubling in this context: “Those election firsts should bring us joy. But they should also bother us and push us to not let the conversation end with those exclamation points.”