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The Women Who Altered Queer Politics Forever

The Women Who Altered Queer Politics Forever

The Women That Altered Queer Politics Forever

A new documentary gives these landmark ladies their due.

We live in a world of Tammy Baldwin, Jared Polis, Brian Sims, Kate Brown, and Kyrsten Sinema, where out legislators, governors, and other elected officials are part of America. In their new award-winning documentary, Political Animals, filmmakers Jonah Markowitz and Tracy Wares take us back to the '90s, when it felt nearly impossible to be elected as an out candidate.

The film tracks the civil rights battles fought by the first four openly LGBT people elected to office in California -- all of whom, it's worth noting, were women. Carole Migden, Sheila Kuehl, Jackie Goldberg, and Christine Kehoe set the foundation for future LGBT battles during their time in the California Assembly and Senate, getting the first domestic partnership registry approved by a legislature as well as the first antibullying bill protecting gay students. Our modern political landscape would never have been as accepting of queer identities without the bravery of these women. As former California Assembly member Jackie Goldberg says, "It is never hopeless as long as you resist."

Political Animals, which won both the Audience and Jury Award for Best Documentary at the 2016 L.A. Film Fest, highlights the stigma that these politicians had to face as queer people but also as women. According to the filmmakers, these four policymakers were able to compete in the political sphere because they all had prior experience in the women's movement, which gave them a template for creating social change. The hardest part of the battle was showing California voters that queer people were organized for political action, and that it was LGBT women who would be leading the charge. Or, as former California Assembly member Carole Migden said, it meant fighting with "lipstick in one hand and a bayonet in the other."

We live in a day when most people wouldn't bat an eye at an openly queer politician, at least in a state like California. In a time before Will & Grace, the name of the game was visibility. "I believe it is the duty of strong women to be forthright and visible," says Carole Migden. And Sheila Kuehl agrees: "I am there to be seen."

Political Animals screens at Outfest on Thursday at 5 p.m. in DGA 2. Tickets available here. Watch an exclusive clip below.

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Drew Kiser