After a decade without an openly LGBT state representative, Mary Gonzalez was elected to represent El Paso’s District 75.
Replacing outgoing state Rep. Chente Quintanilla, Gonzalez became the first woman elected to represent the district after defeating challengers in the Democratic Primary and winning unopposed in the general election.
She’s the first openly LGBT woman elected to the Texas Legislature, but she is the second openly gay representative, after Austin’s Glen Maxey, who served from 1991 to 2003.
But Gonzalez also brought another first for Texas and possibly the nation. She’s pansexual, a sexual orientation often compared to bisexuality, though it is distinctly different because pansexuals don’t believe in a gender binary and can be attracted to all gender identities.
The El Paso native focused on improving her district during her campaign even when her opponents focused on her sexual orientation. She continued to explain her plans for mandatory infrastructure, clean drinking water and better education in her community.
But while she was open about her sexuality during her run for office, she allowed mainstream media to use gay because many didn’t understand what she meant by referring to herself as queer.
Gay eventually turned into lesbian, but Gonzalez ignored the headlines to focus on her campaign.
When Dallas Voice did a cover story on her after the primary, she objected to the term lesbian, and later came out as pansexual.
She’s believed to be the only out pansexual politician in the U.S.
Gonzalez was hesitant to tell voters she was pansexual because the term may have confused them, but she also rejected bisexual because it didn’t fully explain her orientation or how she viewed her attraction to others.
Despite not coming out as bi and facing criticism from within the LGBT community, she said she was always honest when asked about past relationships with men, women and trans people.
Her election as the state’s first out female lawmaker went national, focusing on the changing times in Texas and how progressive El Paso was. When she publicly acknowledged that she is pan, it educated citizens near and far on what that sexuality meant and the importance of being proud of who you are.
History has proven that having an LGBT lawmaker helps pro-equality legislation pass because they can speak about how it will affect them.
Gonzalez is focused on the impact she can make for her district and LGBT advocates are pleased to have an authentic voice for the community to represent them in Austin when she’s sworn in Jan. 8.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 28, 2012.