By Nazly Siadate
Originally published on Advocate.com August 23 2012 3:00 AM ET
Former Connecticut Democratic State Rep. Evelyn Mantilla came out as the nation’s first bisexual state official in 1997. Since then the number of bisexual state-level officials who have come out during their term has slowly grown to six, with Wisconsin Democratic State Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa as the most recent addition to the short list.
In a recent interview with Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Zamarripa explained that it’s more difficult to come out as bisexual because, “It’s harder for people to wrap their minds around that.” However difficult it may be to accept for society, bisexuality is a reality that she says should be dealt with, and, for her at least, coming out was about being open and honest with the public. "It's part of my life, like being a south sider and the only Hispanic in the Legislature, and I'm happy to share it with my constituents.” She also hopes her disclosure will benefit youth struggling to come to terms with their identity.
According to the Victory Fund, there are more than 7,000 state-level legislators in the U.S., about 90 of who identify as LGBT. In her book Bisexuality in the United States: A Social Science Reader, author Paula C. Rust describes the discrimination that bisexuals face from the gay and straight communities, resulting in exclusion and lack of recognition. It could extend to politics as well. Since there have been only six out bisexual elected state level officials in U.S. history (including those who are currently running for office), we thought it was time to showcase who these folks are.
Currently in Office
JoCasta Zamarripa, Wisconsin, State Representative
First elected in 2010 as a Democratic member of the Wisconsin State Assembly, District 8, Zamarripa is now running for reelection. Before taking office, Zamarripa worked as a nonprofit professional as educator and community outreach coordinator for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin.
Kate Brown, Oregon, Secretary of State
Brown is the highest ranking out bisexual official in the U.S. (since Oregon has no lieutenant governor, Brown is second only to the governor). Brown has served Oregonians for more than 20 years, working in family and juvenile law, teaching at Oregon State University, and working with the Juvenile Rights Project. Her legislative achievements since 2009 include leading efforts to reduce health care costs, ensuring education dollars reach classrooms, and pushing to get legislative meetings held in communities to ensure political transparency.
Kyrsten Sinema, Arizona, former State Senator, now hoping for Congress
Sinema is running to represent Arizona’s 9th Congressional district. Defeating her Republican opponent would make Sinema the first out bisexual member of Congress. Sinema has said her impoverished childhood ultimately propelled the desire to run for state senator in 2011. During her first term in state office, Sinema secured funding for veterans, fought against budget cuts toward health care for children and the elderly, and prevented budget cuts in education.
Angie Buhl, South Dakota, State Senator
First elected in 2011, Buhl is not only bisexual, but she’s also the youngest woman to ever serve in the South Dakota Senate. Her efforts can be seen in a variety of arenas, including working as a small business consultant, advocating for women’s rights, protecting employment for seniors and veterans, and serving on Judiciary, Commerce and Energy, Retirement Laws, and Interim Rules Review Committees.
Micah Kellner, New York, State Representative
First elected in 2007, Kellner has since pursued environmental and socially-conscious legislation, including affordable housing, mass transit, animal rights, marriage equality, and increased funding for New York City’s public schools. Kellner, who was born with cerebral palsy, is also a strong advocate for rights of persons with disabilities. He’s up for reelection.
No Longer in Office
Evelyn Mantilla, Connecticut, State Representative
The nation’s first out bisexual state official, who came out in 1997, was in the Connecticut House of Representatives from 1997 to 2007. Mantilla received several awards from the Connecticut Institute for Community Development and from the National Association of Social Workers, among others. Mantilla came out at a June LGBT Pride festival; in her speech she also proposed to her partner, Babette. In 2006, Mantilla decided not to run for reelection and her term expired in January 2007.