This new year is bringing in big changes as the city of Atlanta makes history with its newly elected City Council members. For the very first time in the city's history, four openly LGBTQ members will serve on the Atlanta City Council. These four consist of Liliana Bakhtiar in District 5, who identifies as queer and non-binary, Alex Wan in District 6, who identifies as gay, Keisha Sean Waites in the Post 3 at-large seat who identifies as lesbian and Matt Westmoreland in Post 2 at large-seat who identifies as gay.
City Councilmember Westmoreland recently made headlines just a few days ago after making the decision to come out via Twitter on the night of Jan. 2. The tweet reads,
“Tomorrow afternoon, I’ll swear an oath for a third time to serve the City of Atlanta and all her residents. And I’ll do as a proud member of our LGBTQ+ community. I wrestled with the decision to post this note: The fact that the content is so personal. The desire to live in a world where such pronouncements aren’t necessary. The fear that who I chose to be with would change how people view me or my public service.”
City Councilmember Bakhtiari is also shattering glass ceilings as the first out LGBTQ Muslim elected in the state of Georgia and one of less than five currently serving in the entire country. Liliana will also be the only non-binary person currently serving on the city council of a major U.S. city with only 11 non-binary identifying elected officials serving in the entire country. This is a huge win for Bakhtiari given their loss in the 2017 elections for the District 5 council seat while also showing the push towards diversity when it comes down to our elected officials.
Liliana's victory is also quite timely as hate crimes against both the Muslim and LGBTQ community is on a steady rise; especially towards political figures. In recent news we’ve seen anti-Muslim remarks made to Ihan Omar, Minnesota’s Democratic U.S. Representative. In addition, many state legislative attacks have been made against trans candidates and elected officials including Colorado State Representative, Brianna Titone and the U.S. States Assistant Secretary for health, Rachel Levine.
City Councilmember Wan will serve as the city's first Asian American and openly gay councilmember after being elected in 2009. Wan has spent his time in office fighting Georgia's anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and supporting low-income communities.
As of today, every state but Mississippi now has at least one LGBTQ+ elected official. The question now stands of if having more diversity and representation amongst our elected officials is what the LGBTQ+ needs to start seeing change within their community.
While there’s still much work to be done, the LGBTQ has made many strides towards equality in recents years. According to the Human Rights Campaign, 2021 has officially surpassed 2015 as the worst year for anti-LGBTQ legislation in recent history. With this momentum in closing out 2021, one can remain hopeful for the year of 2022 as we continue to break through the oppression that the LGBTQ community has faced and still does today.