LIKE many other Brits, I sat up into the small hours to watch Kamala Harris and Joe Biden address the world after being declared Vice President and President Elect of the United States.

As a former journalist, I was fascinated by the way everything was playing out and, as an eternal optimist with political leanings to the left of centre, I saw this election as a beacon of hope — something that’s felt sorely lacking this year!

There were so many firsts playing out, right before my eyes: this was the first time an incumbent POTUS had been ousted from the seat of power since Reagan v Carter in 1980; it’s the first time we’ve had a female Vice President, as well as the first Asian-American, African-American in the role, and the first time the daughter of an immigrant has been elected to office.

It’s also, of course, the first time a large-scale press conference has been held in the parking lot of a lancscaping centre, sandwiched between an adult store and a crematorium, and let’s not even go into the amount of firsts The Donald has created with his levels of lies and tantrums.

The next big first though, for me, was when Kamala Harris announced the appointment of Karine Jean-Pierre as her chief of staff.

“Let’s go!!” Jean-Pierre announced on Twitter, confirming the appointment.

Black lesbian commentator

Described as black lesbian commentator, academician, and political powerhouse, Jean-Pierre tweeted that she was proud to be working with Biden/Harris.

According to Out.com, the MSNBC political analyst and commentator was a key figure in three presidential campaigns, including Barack Obama’s historic victory in 2008, and successfully pressured big corporations like Walmart to change unfair labor practices. In addition, Jean-Pierre has taught campaign management at her alma mater, Columbia University, and served as the chief public affairs officer for Move On. She is also the author of Moving Forward, described by its publisher as a “call to arms for those who know that now is the time to act.”

As an out gay woman, one of my biggest concerns about Trump’s reign of power was the erosion of LGBTQ+ visibility and rights.

No sooner had Trump taken office, it was reported that references to LGBTQ+ equality was wiped from The Whitehouse website, and he followed up with his hard-line stance on banning transgender people from the military and then nominated a vocal opponent of gay rights as the nation’s ambassador at large for international religious freedoms.

There’s plenty more, of course. A quick Google search will highlight issues of sex discrimination not covering workers on the basis of sexual orientation, reversing healthcare rights for trans people, and pushing to allow businesses to turn away LGBTQ+ customers on the grounds of religious exemption.

Human rights

Closer to home, the loss of some of our greatest protections under the European Court of Human Rights was one of my biggest reasons for voting against BREXIT, so you can imagine how I felt when the twin powers of Johnson and Trump began to align.

That’s one of many reasons why, as a UK citizen with no voting rights in the USA, I was so buoyed by the election results in America (notwithstanding Trump’s tantrums and erroneous claims, which could drag on for goodness knows how long), and Harris’ choice of Chief Of Staff was another victory for common sense, decency, equality and inclusion.

When under-represented people are elected to positions of power like this, it sends a very clear message. It stands as a beacon of hope in a world that has become so grey and broken.

When under-represented people are elected to positions of power like this, it sends a very clear message. It stands as a beacon of hope in a world that has become so grey and broken. It stands as a message of solidarity, of belief in a brighter future, filled with good people of all colours, all beliefs, all backgrounds, spanning the entire gender and sexuality spectrums.

Representation matters

And so, when I shared an article about Jean-Pierre, an out and proud woman of colour and veteran Obama staffer, who believes “Representation matters”, I was a little surprised by some of the comments.

While most people joined in my jubilation, a couple of commentators stuck out like Westboro Baptist Church protestors at a Pride rally.

“Why do we need to know she is a lesbian?” one commentator asked, “What difference does it make to the quality of her work?”

“I was thinking exactly the same thing,” said another, “No disrespect meant but what has her sexual orientation got to do with anything?”

“I just feel it’s her business. I don’t care about sexual orientation, just the person,” said the first commentator, when I explained about representation and the message this sends, after four years of the erosion of LGBTQ+ visibility.

Another joined in, later in the thread: “Why pick out her sexual orientation? What the hell does it matter? None of my gay friends have the need to say.”

Someone else waded into the debate, talking about the “problem” of ‘them’ “push(ing) their agendas on innocent children in schools.”

Really?!?

Funnily enough, nobody asked why it mattered that Jean-Pierre was female, or a woman of colour.

Nobody asked what the colour of her skin had to do with her suitability for the job, or what the hell her gender had to do with her making a good chief of staff.

Nobody asked what the colour of her skin had to do with her suitability for the job, or what the hell her gender had to do with her making a good chief of staff.

And this, folks, is where I tend to get a little hot under the collar.

Black lives matter

I’m sure none of these people meant anything negative with their comments, and I’m sure they’d be horrified if anyone waved a word like ‘homophobia’ in front of them, just as all those people who insist “All lives matter” will tell you they have lots of black friends.

In a world where people are still being raped, beaten, tortured and killed for loving someone of the same gender, it IS a step in the right direction when someone like Jean-Pierre is elected to such a public position of power.

In a country where the outgoing leader has systematically eroded LGBTQ+ equality and consciously filled positions of power with white religious radicals who are quite a long way removed from an attitude of inclusivity, moves like this speak volumes.

And in a western society where so many believe ‘us gays’ need to just shut up and stop rubbing our very natural inclination to love people of the same gender in their faces, comments like these — so often dismissed as innocuous — are an indication that we still have a very long way to go.

Until next time,

#UnleashYourAwesome,

Taz

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Taz Thornton is the author of Awesome Sauce — a free, weekly positive life and business round-up, with good news stories, positivity tips and visibility hacks for your brand. In a few minutes each week, you get a dose of optimism and some awesome advice to get seen and stay happy.

Taz is a best-selling author, inspirational business speaker and multiple TEDx speaker, consultant on confidence, personal brand and visibility, and an award-winning coach (UK’s Best Female Coach 2018 — Best Business Woman Awards, Female Professional Of The Year, Central England, 2020). She is also the creator of the #UnleashYourAwesome and #BrandMastery personal and business development programmes, as well as #UNLEASHED — an affordable confidence, content and cashflow building programme for coaches, healers and therapists, and #LIFEFORCE — an affordable online spiritual empowerment and coaching programme for people wanting to bring more optimism into their lives.

Taz has been featured on BBC, ITV, in HuffPost, Diva, The Daily Mail and countless other newspapers, magazines and podcasts. Taz is also a regular columnist for the America Out Loud talkshow network. In 2019, she was named as one of the most inspirational businesswomen in the UK and, in 2020, she was named as one of the world’s top 50 women in marketing to follow.

Find her on FacebookLinkedInTwitterInstaKo-Fi and TazThornton.com.