Out Gay Native American Arlando Teller Joins Buttigieg's Dept. of Transportation

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Sunday February 14, 2021
Originally published on February 9, 2021

A Navajo Arizona state lawmaker has become the latest openly LGBTQ member of the Biden administration.

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg selected Arizona state Rep. Arlando Teller as the department's deputy assistant secretary for tribal affairs, the Arizona Republic reports.

"Teller was part of the Indigenous Peoples Caucus as well as the LGBTQ Caucus and a member of the transportation committee as well as the land, agriculture and rural affairs committee," the newspaper article added.

In a valedictory message, the lawmaker - who resigned his office as a state representative Feb. 8 - told his colleagues that it had been a "sincere pleasure working with all of you despite our disagreements, despite our party affiliation.

"At the end of the day, we have worked for the communities that we represent."

"Teller's departure leaves a vacancy in the state House of Representatives, which was narrowly divided 31-29 between Republicans and Democrats," the Arizona Republic noted.

"But as Teller resided in Apache County, it will be up to the board of supervisors there to appoint someone to fill his seat."

"Teller becomes the second Navajo tapped for a mid-level cabinet position," reported the Navajo Times. "Wahleah Johns recently accepted the directorship of the Office of Indian Energy in the U.S. Department of Energy."

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez praised Teller and Johns in a news release, the Navajo Times reported, saying, "Words cannot express how proud we are of these two young Navajo professionals, who have dedicated themselves to serving our Navajo people and are now moving on to the federal level to help empower all tribal nations."

The 2020 elections brought a rainbow wave of more than 220 LTBQ officials who were elected or re-elected at all level of government by voters.

President Biden had brought a number of LGBTQ people to his transition team and, since taking office, has continued to reflect America's diversity in his nominations and appointments. Biden has also announced the reversal of some of Trump's anti-LGBTQ policies, such as the former president's ban on transgender military members, and acted to restore equality protections that the Trump administration had sought to discard.

Buttigieg's confirmation by the Senate marked the first time an openly LGBTQ cabinet nominee has been confirmed by the Senate, although Richard Grenell, who was appointed by former President Trump to serve as Acting Director of National Intelligence for a span of several months last year, was the first out member of a presidential Cabinet.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.