Coming into the 2020 Nevada Democratic caucus, many LGBTQ+ voters say they want to see presidential candidates who will speak out about the community's unique issues.
It’s a Friday night and about 15 people chime in as Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts” comes on. They are at Our Center in Reno, the only LGBTQ+ community center for Northern Nevada, which is decorated with flashing colored lights for a regular event called "Queer Karaoke."
Miqehl Martensen frequently attends events at Our Center with her partner. While not super political, she tries to keep up the best she can. She said candidates are not doing enough to address transgender issues. It’s something that has hit close to home because her partner is transgender.
“There needs to be more representation as far as trans issues and youth trans issues because there’s not enough push for them in Nevada and their rights,” Martensen said
Ahead of the caucus, Martensen is voicing support for any candidate willing to help her community in concrete ways.
“I’ll probably look to someone who has a background in serving the LGBTQIA community because I don’t think lip service is really service,” she said.
When asked about former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, the first openly gay man to run for president, she says she’s not sure.
“I’m not super familiar with his campaign,” Martensen said. “I feel like I should know as part of the community.”
Officially, Our Center is non-partisan. The organization’s president Jeromy Manke said he would like to see politicians work in a bipartisan manner.
“I think the candidates on both sides of the aisle definitely need to step out and be more specific in what they intend to do as far as protections, overall, for LGBT individuals,” Manke said.
Kay Jaynes identifies as bisexual and said more local education is needed about issues affecting this community.
“There's a lot of people that don’t understand,” Jaynes said. “Unfortunately, not understanding can create fear. Everything that comes from the community just needs to be heard.”
Someone who thinks about these issues a lot is Faith Thomas, the president of the Queer Student Union at the University of Nevada, Reno. As an advocate and a lesbian, she said when President Donald Trump was first elected she was deeply disappointed.
“I remember crying myself to sleep,” Thomas said. “To see the election results, at least to me, personally, it was a slap in the face, like, 'Yeah we don’t care about you.' ”
Thomas said by voting in the caucus she is ensuring her voice is heard this election, even though she isn’t sure which candidate is going to fully support her as an individual.
“A lot of the candidates haven’t outright said “I am for LGBTQIA+ people,'' she said.
Thomas adds another issue is that with so many candidates, the average person hasn’t had enough time to do their homework.
Looking forward, no matter who wins Nevada’s caucus, she said she hopes there will be change come November.