LGBT+ Tulsan heads to Oklahoma Senate
by Rob Howard
“It feels conflicting,” Allison Ikley-Freeman told The Gayly, describing how it feels to be only the second LGBT+ member currently serving the Oklahoma state Senate. “It’s so good to know that I’ve achieved something momentous. But it’s terrible that it’s still momentous. Sexual orientation of legislators shouldn’t be a big deal right now.”
In a special election on November 14, Ikley-Freeman was elected to the Oklahoma Senate from District 37, which includes much of northwest Tulsa county, including Sand Springs and Jenks.
She said it’s “really weird” being called Senator Ikley-Freeman. “I’m still Allison. I haven’t been married very long; I’m even still getting used to Ikley-Freeman.”
Senator Ikley-Freeman became a part of the Democratic – and LGBT+ - wave of elected officials that started with the off-year general election held November 7. Virginia voters elected openly trans Danica Roem as well as openly lesbian Dawn Adams to their House of Delegates. Seattle elected Jenny Durkan its first lesbian mayor. Minneapolis elected two transgender people of color, Andrea Jenkins and Phillipe Cunningham to the City Council. And the list goes on.
She doesn’t see it as a wave, but, “It’s more about the trend in the last five or ten years, because of advocating for our own needs. It’s really nice to bring the number of LGBT+ caucus members to two.”
She joins Senator Kay Floyd as the second openly LGBT+ member currently serving in the Oklahoma state legislature.
Ikley-Freeman is a community mental health counselor at a non-profit in Tulsa. “I spend every day working with Oklahomans who are struggling to have their basic needs met. I spent a lot of my childhood and young adulthood on low income. It’s hard. You know they need help to survive.”
As a state Senator, health and mental health care will be a major focus for her. “For mental health, the stigma is more than just preventing people from seeking services; it’s preventing our state from adequately funding those services too.
“My main goal is to help Oklahomans struggle less and make Oklahoma a better place to live. There are a lot of basic services that are being underfunded. We have to better fund those things so people can be successful and make Oklahoma a better place to live.”
Ikley-Freeman considers herself a liberal. She told The Gayly in an interview in October that she thought identifying as such might be a disadvantage in the district, which has 10,000 more Republican voters than Democratic. But she said, “I feel very liberally about a lot of issues. I think that is born out of empathy.”
Allison Ikley-Freeman and Dawn Ikley-Freeman got married in April. They have three children. She said her wife’s reaction to her running was, “’Yeah, whatever, you’re always going to be involved in something,’ but when I won I could tell she was so proud – all those long nights, all the stress. I could see on her face that it had paid off.”
Senator Ikley-Freeman says that there was a lot of excitement about her race. “I’d love to harness that excitement. Figure out who your precinct officer is, if there isn’t one, then become one. When a precinct officer gets to know people in their precinct, engagement gets so much better.”
She takes office on January 31, when the incumbent’s resignation takes effect. She will serve the remainder of his four year term, and stand for re-election in 2020.
Copyright The Gayly – December 1, 2017 @ 9:25 a.m. CST.