SAN ANTONIO – At least 48 openly LGBTQ candidates in Texas ran for office this election cycle. That number is roughly three times higher than any previous election cycle, according to Outsmart, a Houston LGBTQ magazine.
"I came out to my mother when I was I was in high school, like 15 years old. I was raised in a Catholic household, first-generation American," said San Antonio native Gina Ortiz Jones, who is running for a U.S. congressional seat.
Ortiz Jones said her mother was protective.
"She knew it would be hard. She knew it would be a harder life, and it was. I was honored to receive an ROTC scholarship that took me to Boston University, but that meant, frankly, lying about who I was," she said.
Like many others, she felt she couldn't be herself in the first part of her life, but that has since changed drastically.
"Yeah, I stand on the shoulders of leaders, not only LGBT but strong women," Ortiz Jones said.
She said that's what she's trying to be for the younger generations, LGBTQ children who want to run for office someday.
"If you want it, if you're ready and able to serve, there should be no barrier to that. It should not be about your sexual orientation. It should not be about your gender. It should not be about your socioeconomic status," Ortiz Jones said. "This is not a spectator sport and requires that everybody feels like they can contribute and should contribute."
She said the number of LGBTQ candidates this election cycle is a true sign of the times.
"We need to be represented, all of us. We cannot assume that what we have we will continue to have," she said.
The rising number of candidates brings pride even to opponents. Ortiz Jones faces Rick Trevino in the U.S. District 23 Democratic runoff.
"I think it's admirable that she's running a campaign where she's out proudly. That's exactly what people need to see, and I think Gina and other LGBTQIA candidates show people from those communities that they can do it too," Trevino said.
Candidates of all kinds are standing up for LGBTQ rights but also trying to erase the stigma and allow people to see past that label.