” Be authentic. “
This is the most important tip State Senator Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield) said he would give to an LGBTQ + person considering running today. The 10-year veteran of Michigan city and state politics knows a thing or two about being yourself: When he first ran for Southfield City Council in 2011, Moss had not come out publicly. He qualified at the time to present himself as an openly homosexual candidate as a “risk” and a “responsibility”.
“We’ve come a long way,” Moss told Pride Source. “And I think any LGBTQ person recognizes that. We are a community that certainly does not take the struggle so far for granted. “
These days, not only is Moss open about his sexuality, but he’s using his platform as Michigan’s first openly gay state senator to bring attention to critical LGBTQ + issues. This includes speaking to the State Senate in recognition of World aids day and to celebrate Pride month and shares his thoughts on Exit day, Just to name a few.
As Moss demonstrates every day, it is not only possible to serve openly, it is essential. Representation matters.
“Representation is important on many fronts,” Moss said. “He signals to the [LGBTQ+] community here in the state of Michigan that they have a voice in the process. It means someone who understands their conditions, understands their lived experiences, and understands the unique challenges they face.
Representation is also important in the legislative process. “We can actually have some serious gains,” Moss said. “We can convince the other side of [our] problems and build momentum for the issues that impact us.
And sharing your lived experience means sharing things in common like the need for good schools and clean water. “As a gay person in the neighborhood, I care about the roads,” Moss said. “I care about the accommodation. I care about the same economic conditions as my neighbors – and I’m gay. And I think then people start to realize that that’s not the only factor that explains why I want to serve.
Moss stressed how important it is to bring an LGBTQ + perspective to issues that his colleagues might not otherwise have recognized as important to the community.
“When I’m in a working group with people on housing and then I can bring up housing discrimination in the LGBTQ community, it really opens my eyes and opens hearts,” Moss said.
Just as the ‘normalization’ of LGBTQ + representation in elected office is good for the political process, it also means that the more members of the LGBTQ + community see that success is possible, the more candidates run for it – and win. This is called a “virtuous cycle”.
Moss’s entry into city-level politics “certainly prepared me for Lansing,” he said. Some call it “building the bench”. This is how ballot races like county commission, city council and school board can serve as a pipeline to greater representation – and greater power – at senior levels of the civil service.
“Where decisions about us are made, we deserve a place at the table,” said Moss. “Whether it’s on a city council or a school board, these decisions impact LGBTQ residents and students across the state. “
That’s not to say that Moss’s time on city council was just a stepping stone. This gave him a greater perspective on the disconnect between state and the needs of municipalities, which Moss is equally passionate about solving today.
With one term on City Council, two in the State House, and currently in his first term in the State Senate, Moss knows what it takes for an LGBTQ + person to launch a winning campaign. Running openly is the key, but it’s only the start.
Political mentors are “absolutely” important, Moss said. “I can call Brenda Lawrence anytime and just share with her what’s going on in Lansing,” Moss said, referring to the current MP and former mayor of Southfield. “I can get his comments. I can tell him about some of the issues that I deal with. It makes me a better lawmaker.
“It prompted me to reach out,” Moss added. “It also prompted me to reach out to others looking for mentorship. One of these people is Jason hoskins, Moss chief executive and current member of Southfield City Council, who is also openly gay.
Beyond coming out of the closet, “be prepared and feel comfortable sharing your lived experience,” Moss said. In so doing, campaigning can also be a means of advocating for the LGBTQ + community in a meaningful way.
“I think the more we talk about issues that everyone can embrace and that everyone can support, it’s a step in the door,” Moss said. “We’re not that different… and we’re not looking for special treatment because of who we are. But neither are we going to accept anything less than equal protection under the law.
Moss had other advice, especially for first-time applicants who find an application prohibitive.
“Knocking on doors really doesn’t cost anything,” said Moss, who is famous for go door-to-door tirelessly. “It costs shoe leather. It costs a sweat in equity. But other than that, it takes time. Knocking on doors doesn’t require that big, sturdy bank account. Another advantage of door-to-door is that it allows a candidate to meet their neighbors and listen to their concerns, one-to-one.
Yet direct mail must be printed and mailed, and these are the costs that any campaign will incur. Moss recommends asking $ 100 from 100 people each, which can mean sometimes uncomfortable requests. “It’s a combination of investing money and energy,” Moss said. “And I think those two things are key to winning a race.”
Moss reflected on his 10 years in power. He said he was neither remarkable nor special because he was the first person to serve in the Michigan Senate. “I happened to be the first one,” he said.
“I think a lot of bigotry is fueled by ignorance and how you dispel that ignorance is to inform,” Moss said. “So to be the first person on this mike to advocate for Pride Month or, perhaps even more so, to advocate for reform from Elliott-Larsen, who ultimately won Republican support for the very first time in both rooms, is important. “
It’s been a long journey for Moss – and for the LGBTQ + community. “We have seen so much progress. But people help build progress, [and] progress helps to further develop people who run. It’s a good cycle.
“I got attached to that quote from Harvey Milk,” he continued. “And I really think it’s applicable that ‘coming out is the most political thing you can do.’ Going out with your family, going out where you work, where you shop, where you eat is the best way to break myths and dispel stereotypes and lies. For the good of all, when you present yourself as a openly gay candidate, I think that makes a huge difference.