The following interview with openly lesbian Sen. Tammy Baldwin was conducted by Philadelphia Gay News Publisher Mark Segal.
Mark Segal: So, 1990 as you come into this city, fundraising to run for congress
Tammy Baldwin: Well, 1990 would have been state assembly. 1996 would have been getting ready to run for congress.
MS: First out state assemblywoman, first out congresswoman, and now, first out U.S. senator. So, thinking of that, do we have a possibility of first out President?
TB: We all do as a society, but don't look at me. This is an extraordinary honor, and I feel very humble to get to represent the state of Wisconsin as one of their two senators. One of my aspirations is becoming the senior senator. We're trying to get Russ Feingold elected to the U.S. Senate in Wisconsin, which would make me the senior senator. I feel very fortunate to do what I do.
MS: I remember those earlier fundraisers. There was a lot of space in the room because people weren't giving money because they didn't believe and people were in the closet. Did you ever expect, back then, that we would have so many LGBT officials that you don't know them all?
TB: It was hard for me to see how fast progress would come. I knew there would be more, I knew that our voters were judging us by our advocacy, by the issues we championed, I knew that that was our trajectory. But to see it double and then double and then double again, that gave me great hope that we would achieve victories in every state, that we would be able to be role models for others.
MS: Key point: you've never shrunk away from the idea of being a role model for women and for young lesbian women. You put that on the record, you put that out there, and that's one of the most important things that we as older LGBT people can do.
TB: Without question. I first ran for office supported and mentored by other out elected officials who said it can be done. I don't know if I would have broken the glass ceilings that I did had it not been my first race where I wasn't the "first." I stand on other people's shoulders.
MS: So how do you feel when someone says to you: "You're a pioneer."
TB: I feel so humbled and lucky that I can inspire the next generation.
MS: Thank you.