Joshua Higginbotham wants all West Virginians to feel comfortable in their skin
He knew when he was 16 years old, but not all of his family did. Now, Joshua Higginbotham, the 24-year-old Republican Delegate for West Virginia's 13th District has made it official: he's gay.
Higginbotham has wanted to tell people he's gay since he was 16, but he wanted to tell his family before going public. So, little by little, Higginbotham told family members over the years. He said he made the announcement after sharing his secret with his parents.
He made the announcement on Twitter on Sunday. He pressed the bright blue "Tweet" button because he wants to be a role model for young West Virginians.
"I want to be a good example," Higinbotham said. "It's OK to be who you are without being afraid."
As of Thursday morning, his post had more than 1,000 likes, but Higginbotham said the announcement isn't about getting likes or being liked. It's about being open and honest with the people he represents.
"Someone's identity should not be influenced by their politics and vice versa," Higginbotham said. "This very small part of my personal life should not be a judging point for the voters."
Higginbotham's district includes parts of Putnam, Mason and Jackson County. Within Jackson County, he represents Cottageville, Millwood and Ravenswood.
Shortly after making his announcement, Ravenswood Mayor Josh Miller commented on his post.
Miller said society has made people worry too much about others' personal lives. He doesn't think anyone should have to make these kinds of announcements anymore because people shouldn't care about the sexuality of their representatives or anyone.
"I'd like to say that I was proud that he did that, but I'm just sad that you still have to do that in 2021," Miller said. "I just don't see how any of that has anything to do with his ability to legislate."
'Nobody agrees with their party 100%'
Higginbotham said that since he took office in 2016, he's always supported bills that uplift the LGBTQ community. He announced at the beginning of 2021 that he would lead the Fairness Act.
The Fairness Act, also known as HB 2998, is still pending approval in the House Workforce Development Committee.
On the West Virginia Legislature's website, it says the following:
"The purpose of this bill is to add 'sexual orientation' and 'gender identity' to the categories covered by the Human Rights Act, prohibiting discrimination in employment and places of public accommodation."
LGBTQ resources are scarce in Jackson County
The closest LGBTQ resource center to Ravenswood is in Parkersburg, and there are a few resources available in Charleston. Miller said he's never thought about creating an LGBTQ center in Ravenswood because no one has ever mentioned it.
He said it isn't off the table, but unless there's a push from residents or an increase in hate crimes, he doesn't see it coming to City Council. As long as Miller has been mayor, he said he hasn't seen hardly any issues with violence toward the LGBTQ community in Ravenswood.
Here are some of the closest LGBTQ resources to Jackson County:
— Katelyn Waltemyer (she/her) is the General Assignment and Enterprise Reporter for Jackson Newspapers in Jackson County, West Virginia. Have a news tip on local government or education? Or a good feature? You can reach Katelyn at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @Kate_Waltemyer.