In West Mesa, a legislator reaches across the aisle, while challenging gender norms

Rep. Lorena Austin is the nation’s first nonbinary Chicane legislator, which comes with complex politics in a historically conservative area—but it’s also rewarding


Arizona Mirror

When a West Mesa woman opened her front door to Rep. Lorena Austin last year, she immediately told the Democratic state legislator that her son would not want to talk. Austin was canvassing the district, one that has historically been a Republican stronghold, and was hoping to connect with the woman’s son because he was someone data showed who sat “in the middle.”

Despite that initial rebuff, Austin learned after a few minutes of conversation that the woman’s son was having difficulty entering a training program. At the doorstep, Austin told her exactly how to get the resources she and her son needed. When they parted ways, the two shook hands.

This article was originally published by LOOKOUT, a nonprofit queer-focused news organization covering Arizona’s LGBTQ+ communities.

“That was one of my favorite interactions,” Austin said, noting that knocking on doors has become comfortable, especially with undecided voters. “We agree on so much more than we disagree on.”

But Austin said knocking on doors that have long been represented by conservatives—many of whom have been against the rise and continued conversation around gender identity and sexuality—comes with an added layer of context.

Austin is nonbinary, a term used interchangeably with gender nonconforming, and uses they and them pronouns. They also are Chicane, recognizing Austin’s Mexican heritage.


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December 2023