Overdue Diversity for Council’s LGBT Caucus

The City Council approved separate bills to support transgender individuals in New York City.
The City Council approved separate bills to support transgender individuals in New York City.
Matt Tracy

The New York City Council’s LGBT Caucus is finally getting an influx of much-needed diversity in the new year, capping off a four-year stretch during which the only out members of the city’s lawmaking body were men — and a majority of them white men.

The new LGBT Caucus, which will jump from four members to seven, will bring historic representation to the city: Manhattan’s Kristin Richardson Jordan and Brooklyn’s Crystal Hudson will be the first out LGBTQ Black women on the Council, while Queens’ Tiffany Cabán and Lynn Schulman are going to be the first out LGBTQ women from their borough to serve as city lawmakers. Chi Ossé, Hudson’s district neighbor, will be the first out LGBTQ Black councilmember to represent Brooklyn. Staten Island’s David Carr is becoming the first out LGBTQ Republican in the City Council.

The appetite for change was evident during the years leading up to the 2021 City Council elections. Dozens of aspiring LGBTQ leaders stood on the steps of City Hall in 2019 to roll out an initiative aimed at boosting representation and maintaining LGBTQ voices at a time when every member of the LGBT Caucus faced term limits. Even before the transformational protest movement against police brutality and racism last year, a new wave of activism had emerged — including in 2019 when a fresh, queer-led push to decriminalize sex work bloomed in New York City.

By the following year, the nationwide protests served as a turning point for many candidates, including Ossé, who said he decided to run after realizing “that protest could not be our only strategy in order to achieve change in this country.”

The seven incoming members of the LGBT Caucus, facing the pressure to keep or expand LGBTQ voices, did not just increase the number of out LGBTQ councilmembers heading into next year. The election victories were even more momentous because so many barriers were shattered at once — and by multiple candidates at the same time. That should not be overlooked.

The victories could also be a sign that the long-past-due representation could continue to reach new heights in the near future. The clean sweep for all six candidates followed a primary campaign season during which even more diversity was brought to the campaign trail. Out non-binary candidate Marti Allen-Cummings of Manhattan and out transgender candidates Elisa Crespo of the Bronx and Alejandra Caraballo of Brooklyn mounted admirable campaigns for city office this cycle and brought transgender and non-binary representation to the fore.

The changing of the guard at the LGBT Caucus punctuates the need for councilmembers to reflect the diversity of the people they serve — and our city is better off for it.

Editor’s Note: This story has been revised to reflect that the LGBT Caucus has seven members, not six.