You’d never expect Georgia’s new representative in the state legislature to be black, queer and young enough to be an undergraduate, but Park Cannon is the fiery new politician taking Georgia by storm.
She’s not your typical politician. With a wide smile, large glasses and a shock of auburn dreadlocks, she looks like the cool older student you had a crush on in college.
She doesn’t look like someone deciding the legal landscape of an entire state – let alone one of the most conservative states in the country.
In an interview with AfterEllen, she said
As the first person identifying as queer, the youngest person, an African American woman, someone who in socioeconomic frame is not very privileged—I really had to think about where my battles are.”
Her current platform focuses on expanding Medicaid and criminalizing LGBTQ discrimination.
She considers herself a woman of the people. In order to find out what her constituents care about, she watches documentaries and immerses herself in the community.
Her job isn’t easy. Not only does she have to stand strong against homophobic, racist, sexist politicians, but she also has to balance the needs of a diverse LGBTQ community.
For example, privileged white gay men have different needs than disenfranchised trans* people of color, but Cannon has to weigh both groups’ priorities equally.
She also has to consider the needs of an entire state; being LGBTQ in Atlanta is vastly different from being LGBTQ in a small Georgia town.
Cannon recognizes that she’s made great strides as a queer woman, but she doesn’t want to be pigeonholed – her work is more important than her identity. For her, it’s not about being the “first” queer or black person to do anything. It’s about paving the way for the people who come ten years down the line.
The job isn’t without daily dangers. She’s a proud Southern girl, but recognizes that her state isn’t always welcoming to change.
I don’t know when I pull out of my driveway if I’m going to see someone with a Confederate flag bumper sticker or with an NRA logo saying that they’re being supported by those who protect the right to bear arms.”
She’s also received threatening phone calls.
Despite the danger, she has no plans to give up any time soon. Her work is important, and she has plans to partner with LGBTQ representatives nationwide.
Now you might be thinking, “This woman sounds amazing!” and “Is she single?” When asked about dating, Cannon said that public service will always come first. She doesn’t have room for anything in her personal life that may impede her long-term goals. Sorry, ladies. Try again after the next election.
Read more about Park Cannon’s goals at her website.