What role do LGBTQ people play in politics when, according to The New York Post, President Trump was rumored to say Vice President Mike Pence, “…wants to hang them all!” Seeking to respond to this question, People Respecting Identity Differences for Equality (PRIDE) sponsored the Oct. 18 event “Queer in Politics”. PRIDE hosted local politician Erica Mauter, Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership ’14, for a question-and-answer session.
Attending students, mostly LGBTQ-identified and students of color, enjoyed the event. These students, often politically active, or at least savvy, can feel parched to see someone who looks like them living out their goals. Mauter’s platform and advice closely reflected the progressive politics of many left-leaning Katies.
Mauter is running for Ward 11’s Minneapolis City Council seat. Currently the director of the Twin Cities Women’s Choir, Mauter herself is fairly new to electoral politics; her advice was genuine and apt.
It was a pivotal moment for Mauter in 2012. Like many Minnesotans, she was agitated by the anti-marriage and voter ID amendments proposed to our constitution. One volunteer shift with Minnesota United turned into a full-time involvement in local political campaigns and non-profit work. Mauter credits her non-profit experience for the grounded language she uses to speak about policy.
Her interest in local government, according to Mauter, is shaped by its tangible impact on our day-to-day lives. Similarly, Mauter’s day-to-day life “completely informs” her motivation to campaign and how she will govern. Mauter is interested in issues surrounding equity and affordable housing in Minneapolis. While the affluent Ward 11 is mostly unperturbed by violent crimes, inconveniences like stolen bikes are not uncommon. Through conversation, Mauter has learned that her white liberal neighbors want to deal with this problem by hiring more police officers.
“[I] sometimes resent being put in the position of being a racial bridge,” says Mauter. However, she has the conversation with neighbors about why more police would be harmful to herself and other residents who look like her, and is hoping to change opinions.
Working in the non-profit sector, Mauter is leery of falling into harmful liberal habits she sees in potential future co-councilors. Though she’s running with DFL affiliation, she described her political alignment as progressive. According to Mauter, “To change the system, you gotta work it from the inside and the outside.”
“[I] may not be in the streets with a bullhorn,” she says, although she believes someone should be. Mainly because both kinds of work are necessary to create the kind of progressive change Mauter wants to see.
In an interview with The Wheel, Mauter outlined three major goals she has for her campaign that reflects her political vision as a whole:
- To get elected, because ten of thirteen Minneapolis City Council members are white.
- To change the way conversations about Minneapolis’s needs are facilitated because they ought to be had in a way that truly reflects the needs of its inhabitants.
- Lastly, to create a space for people in her ward to do something about the feelings they had following the presidential election last November. Many of the people working on her campaign, though they consider themselves politically savvy, “…had never put their boots on the ground,” according to Mauter.
The takeaway from “Queer in Politics”, was this: for Mauter, one volunteer shift at Minnesota United was the catalyst for the activist work and political campaign that followed. This is her advice to St. Kate’s students, specifically young LGBTQ people of color who want to get involved in politics:
- One volunteer shift can lead to countless other opportunities and connections.
- The more challenging piece, but very important, is to have the courage to live authentically. The ability to fully cherish and appreciate yourself when institutions and interpersonal interactions are telling you should hate yourself is radical. Therefore, white heterosexual liberals also have a responsibility if they want to see progressive change: support your LGBTQ and people of color peers running for office, and “step back and be quiet.”
Learn more about Erica Mauter and her campaign here.