With just three weeks remaining in 2023, I reflect upon a record-setting year for our community and feel tremendous joy and, quite frankly, profound grief.

This duality spiked last month as I watched election results come in from across the United States. I couldn’t help but be filled with a sense of hope and relief as voters turned out to support LGBTQ+ candidates and equality at large.

More individuals who identify as LGBTQ+ ran for office than ever before, with 2023 seeing a record number of LGBTQ+ political candidates in an off-year election.

And while this number is a cause for celebration, it took place against—and was likely driven by—a legislative backdrop that still has our community reeling. This year, more than 500 anti-LGBTQ bills, which mainly target the wellbeing and dignity of transgender and nonbinary individuals, have been introduced across the United States with dozens becoming law.

Despite the efforts of far-right groups to push us backwards and into the closet—or deny even our existence—our collective community has once again said “WE ARE”, showing its resilience and readiness to show up in the fight for equality. It’s why I have such confidence in our movement’s ability to keep pushing forward. History, an increasingly robust group of committed leaders, and the momentum of progress are on our side. Last month’s election—and Out & Equal’s most successful Workplace Summit—are just two examples.

In the 25 years since Out & Equal’s founding, across many aspects of society, the LGBTQ+ community has made significant progress in achieving greater representation, inclusion, and equality.

Let’s break it down across a few key areas: business, public policy, and public perception and LGBTQ+ self-identification.

  • Businesses are creating workplace cultures centered on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging. When Out & Equal was founded, only 4% of Fortune 500 companies protected employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation. Today, it is more than 90%, and 83% protect employees from discrimination based on gender identity. Beyond creating more inclusive workplaces, companies are leveraging their voices as influence in the push for equality. More than 500 now support full federal civil rights protections for LGBTQ+ individuals and have thrown their weight behind the Equality Act, calling on Congress to pass this generation-defining bill.
  • Despite recent legislative sessions, public policy overall has made significant advancements towards equality. Policies that 25 years ago seemed like an impossibility—marriage equality, the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” expanded federal protections—are now reality. This is just in the United States. As we look across the globe, marriage equality is now recognized in 34 countries. There is much more work to be done of course, but this is progress we can continue to build on.

I admire these achievements/milestones not to minimize the anxiety and frustration we feel in this current environment. Our community’s fight for equality continues—and in many cases intensifies—especially for transgender and nonbinary individuals. We must show up as intentional, authentic, and vocal allies, and be relentless in our support of any and all members of the LGBTQ+ community.

I want the gains noted above to serve as a reminder that we are not where we were 25 years ago. A point I consistently make in conversations with individuals and organizational leaders seeking counsel on the way forward is that we are 25 years better and stronger, and we are going to keep pushing together.

As a community, we have experienced triumphs and challenges. Undoubtedly there will be more of both in the months and years ahead. But as history has shown, in the face of adversity we emerge stronger, more united, and more energized than before. As a community, we have been and we are still an unstoppable force.

So, with the progress we have achieved and the momentum we have built, let’s continue to push our movement and community forward.

—Erin Uritus
CEO, Out & Equal