Good morning Kansas reflector listeners. I'm Reporter Rachel meat bro. And I'm here today with activist Joy Moore, who's an engagement coordinator with mainstream Coalition, a group dedicated to guard against extremism if I have that correct and awesome Alyssa styler, which I think I pronounced threatened, yeah, advocacy director at loud light which works to give communities voices and to be heard. Our topic today will be LGBTQ advocacy. And community engagement efforts will begin with hate week, which was the week of February 13 218, which there were several bills that were deemed an attack on LGBTQ communities. In a brief overview, we had one bill that would invoke a trans athletes sports ban at the K through 12. level and also in colleges. We also saw a bill that would reveal gender affirming care for like transgender people under the age of 18. And create avenues for suing physicians who perform gender reassignment surgery and give gender affirming care. So you guys are both involved with these sorts of efforts. Were there any bills that stood out to you? We'll begin with Melissa.
Yeah, thank you so much for having me. I mean, every year we LGBT, Kansans face attacks in the statehouse. So this is a little bit same as it ever was. But what we're seeing now is that the folks who are proponents of this bill are extremists from out of state. They're a small minority of folks who try and come in and tell Kansans what to do there copy and paste legislation that's happening all across the country. But what we're seeing more and more of is Kansans really understanding that whenever they get engaged, it will make a difference. And so with all of these bills, we saw hundreds and hundreds of people submit testimony opposing them. We also saw something that hadn't been mentioned a bill that would ban non discrimination ordinances on the local level. So across the state Kansans, who are LGBT don't actually have any kind of protections. And so that we have to fight for that on the local level, whether it's housing or employment, or whatever. And as a response to trying to appease a very small, extreme minority, you have folks like Patrick Penn, saying that not even local governments can do what they want to do to protect their own citizens. And now,
like, let's just focus on that bill for a moment. That was House Bill 2376. And yesterday, they took out that section that would prohibit greater restrictions on LGBTQ protections. Do you guys think that was in response to any community outreach, or?
Absolutely, I know that our coalition, you know, every year, we stand up, and we speak out, and we fight back. And it just goes to show that whenever we have bipartisan opposition to all of these bills, that things like banning non discrimination ordinances at the local level isn't popular amongst Republicans or Democrats. Again, it's just a small minority of folks who are pushing for this kind of hateful legislation. And I
think I would also say, you know, we've seen these attacks on LGBTQ Kansans. Time and time again, I remember coming down here with high school groups when I was in high school, fighting that anti LGBTQ legislation during the Brownback era, and this concerted attack on LGBTQ Kansans that we're seeing this year. To me seems like a ramped up version of what we saw in years past. Obviously, I believe now that there's more of a national effort to attack transgender Americans, and specifically transgender Kansans here in the state house. I think that we're seeing a lot more of that legislation for that reason, specifically on this non discrimination bill. Obviously, that bill was amended to remove that section on what otherwise would have been a good bill. And and I think that that definitely was a response, like Melissa said to the work that a lot of these activists coming into the Statehouse are doing. We also saw HB what was it two to three, eight, the so called fairness and women's sports act, that would remove the ability for transgender Kansans to play sports. We also saw that passed out of committee with two Republicans voting against it, which means that not supporting that legislation is a bipartisan idea that these attacks aren't necessarily upheld by one party or another, even though we see a supermajority into pika of one party with a so called agenda that they're trying to pass. And I would definitely say that that's in response to the changing ideology that Kansans and Americans have out there LGBTQ community members
got it. And then going back to the hole out of point. I knew like there was a couple of D transitioner. Activists, which I thought was very interesting. I think it was Chloe Cole as one of the famous ones. She formally identified as a transgender man, in her teenage years, I believe. And then she got a breast reduction or removal surgery, and then has come to do kind of a circuit. So like we're seeing, again, this kind of campaign against, I guess, transgender individuals on like a national level, and then also of ringers from out of state. Has that also been the case in previous years, it's the first time we're seeing out of state people.
So this is my official first year doing a lot of work in the state house. I could conceivably imagine that this is not the first time this type of thing has happened in Kansas. There was also a transgender woman that testified as a proponent of the fairness and women, the so called fairness women's sports act. So I don't believe that that is necessarily a new thing that's happening. I will say just on a personal point of privilege, as someone who lives in Kansas has their entire life identifies as transgender, specifically non binary and gender non conforming, those people do not speak for me. And I don't want to speak on behalf of the entire LGBTQ community. But I do believe that, that a lot of LGBTQ Kansans would agree with me that these attacks on our community are not warranted, even if there are supporters of them from within our community. There's this idea that homophobia and transphobia Are you know that LGBTQ people are not exempt from being homophobic or transphobic. And I believe that that is a classic case of what we saw with these other members of our community testifying as proponents of these bills. Got
it? So busy week for you both of you look like you want
to add? Oh, yeah, well, I guess I will just back up what Jay said is, it's not new, that are surprising at all, that there's national coordination of social issue, hateful bills, right, this is something that's been happening forever. And frankly, Kansas has been kind of a house for it in previous administrations. And so this isn't surprising. These kinds of tactics have been used against our community over and over again, and many other folks whenever it comes to civil rights. What we are seeing, though, is, again, massive opposition from the people in Kansas, you look at the transgender sports ban, by my count, we had 96 opponents all from Kansas, and seven proponents, or seven opponents from out of state. So whenever you're actually talking to Kansans, whenever you're actually talking to folks. They don't want hateful legislation coming out of their state house, and more and more. Some legislators are just so disconnected from their base, and instead are answering to these kinds of national pushes based off of who's fundraising for them? Or is it going to help their campaign whenever it comes to really mobilizing a very small and extreme base? But none of these folks are representative of what everyday Kansans actually want happening in the statehouse?
Well, and I would also add to that idea, you know, there are studies and data that have come out in recent years, and I don't know the exact numbers on this, I need to do my research. But there is proof that ideas about the LGBTQ community, not just in Kansas, but in America are changing. Remember, there was a time in Kansas state history where we actually voted as a state on whether or not to allow gay marriage. And that failed 70 to 30. You know, 70% of Kansans said no, we don't agree with gay marriage. We don't want those people to have that right in our state. Flash forward. We have a candidate in 2022, Derrick Schmidt, who runs on this platform of banning transgender women from playing sports and, and all of these national ideologies that we've seen, and he loses his election to Governor Laura Kelly, who has been an ardent supporter of the LGBTQ community, one of her first acts in office was signing legislation that would protect LGBTQ state workers from discrimination. So if that's not evidence enough, I believe we have seen a significant shift in ideology in the population here in Kansas. And I'd say that that's probably pretty safe to assume that that's going on across our country as well.
Gotcha. So the built in legislature don't apply to general Kansas opinion. Then again, like as community activists, both of you guys, I'm assuming have worked a long time with this sort of thing. Um, just tell me how you guys got started was been like, I mean, you've seen this shift in the bills and such. Have you also seen it in like activism community outreach, we can begin with either one.
So I am queer, I actually got started doing LGBT activism in high school. And that's what led to my career today. I was the first girl to actually come out at my high school, it was incredibly lonely. This was back in 2006. And so if you're thinking about the kind of national narratives that were happening, this is during the defensive Marriage Act, this is during Don't Ask, Don't Tell. I mean, throughout my neighbor of mine, throughout my neighborhood, you had yard signs all over that was male symbol plus female symbol equals marriage, right. And so that was the kind of national conversation we were having. But at least at that point, in time, it was adults picking on other adults, and then their children were hearing these kind of debates and then echoing that kind of hatefulness, whenever I was in the locker room, or whenever I was in the bathroom, or whatever, it was terrible to grow up in that kind of an experience. And so I started LGBT activism at that point in time, basically, to make other gay friends. So I knew I wasn't alone. And so from there, what we're seeing now is, more people are coming out more people are, I'm not going to say that they're, it's completely safe, especially not everywhere, especially not for trans Kansans. But there is more community that we're seeing, and that's translating into that kind of activism. I mean, that's why I do this work now, because I love the people. I love to serve the people. And I love to make sure that we have a home here.
I did not know that Melissa and I had such a similar journey. I'm kind of tearing up a little bit because I also was the first person at my high school to come out. I actually came out in the eighth grade. And then I just did as much as I could to learn about that through my time in school. I knew it was a controversial issue. I was in high school smack dab in the middle of the Brownback administration. And you know, Sam Brownback was very much in support of a lot of these restrictions on gay marriage and LGBTQ Kansans in the statehouse, here in Topeka. And by the time I was a senior at Shawnee Mission, North High School in Overland Park, I was the president of my high school's equality club, and we took a couple trips out to Topeka to protest some of these anti transgender bills, went to college came back and just kept getting involved in, in LGBTQ activism, I I actually spoke up for a lot of these local non discrimination ordinances in Johnson County, that the bill we discussed previously would purport to destroy or remove. And, and that's kind of how I got my start and how I grew my network and my community in Kansas. But, you know, I have I have for too long I've seen these attacks on our community. And Melissa's right, it really does feel alienating. Especially when I remember what it was like to be an LGBTQ student, and to see now that our lawmakers are attacking our students in Kansas like this, it fills me with rage. These are children, that you are attempting to alienate from their peers, and take away their rights to join in the same activities, and be in the same classrooms and do the same things as their students as other students. And it's disturbing. It's very disturbing to me.
And I know earlier, you were talking a little bit about some of the struggles you face with going back and speaking to the school districts. Could you speak a little more on that? I mean, what was the response when you go to the school meetings in School Board hearings?
You know, it's it is it is different with each governing body. You know, I've spoken at a lot of city council meetings, a lot of school board meetings now testifying in committees in the state government. Sometime in, you know, a lot of these lawmakers, I think, think that they don't have to be so loud on it, that their supporters will speak to these things. And so I think one of the most difficult portions is seeing other people come and testify in favor of these really hateful pieces of legislation, whether it's at a city level or a school board level. That has not changed in the years that I've been doing advocacy. We've always had people that come and spew what is quite obviously, some rhetoric that someone else wrote that they've memorized. Sometimes I wonder if people who are supporters of this type of legislation actually truly believe the things they're saying when they stand up for it as a proponent, because we hear it over and over and over. And it's meant to be divisive, and it's meant to be harmful. And part of what Melissa and I have to do is we have to figure out how to navigate this climate of how do we say how we feel without making it sound like that rhetoric, but also having it be the truth about who we are. Because a lot of these people that come and testify in favor of these bills, I don't know a single thing about what it's like to be a member of the LGBTQ community. So you know, we have to fight all of that in a one and a half or a two minute time span that, you know, whoever we're speaking to gives us and it's, it's not easy, and we have to put a lot of emotion and a lot of work into it. And so to the rest of the people who come and testify.
And again, it just seems very difficult agreement, like mentally challenging. How do you deal with that sort of stress?
Well, on one hand, I think that doing this work is an act of self care. Because whenever you see injustice, I don't understand how people can see themselves, their communities, their loved ones being harmed, and just do nothing about it, right. And so this is to take action, and to do everything that you can is a healing process, in and of itself. That being said, the work that Jay and I do specifically with community engagement outside of the state house, really working with impacted communities is that kind of community power building, it isn't just okay, you show up here, you speak here, you say this, which is, of course, what we're seeing our opposition to, right, it is actually building love and joy and care for each other within these community spaces. And so I mean, that's why whenever you're seeing movement work happening, it's not just, you know, these kinds of suited lobbyists. And that's it, right, you're seeing real humans, you're seeing mutual aid calm, like in combination with these things, you're seeing caring for each other's children, you're seeing, you know, a lot of self care beyond just taking time off, but really like, building joy together, because the work that we do, hopefully, it's building the future that we want to see. And if we don't start building joy into that now, then what kind of future do we think that we're going to have. And so a lot of that kind of, just like deep love for our people is part of the work that's so important.
One week, in my opinion, we can't really afford to have it any other way. Right? I can't afford to not be able to go to and from Overland Park and Topeka all the time and not have people around me that I know are at doing the same thing and feeling the same way. But be willing to help me out with anything that I need, and be a friend or shoulder to cry on or year to vent to, or, you know, whatever. That has to be there in this type of work. Because we don't know what this legislature is going to do. At the end of the day, we don't know if it's all going to go away and all of our rights are going to be stripped away. And that is the scariest thought on Earth. But we at least we know that there are other people in this space that understand what we're going through, and it helps a lot to know that that those people are there for us.
Building love like I mean, give me an example like so you go into a community. How like, what sort of specific work would this be? Oh,
I'm Melissa bought me lunch the other day.
I mean, it's. So what we're seeing from proponents of hateful legislation like this is so transactional, right? You talked about the kinds of spokespeople who they're flying all across the country who are paid an incredibly high salary, to exploit their own personal traumas. That doesn't speak. It statistically doesn't speak for the certainly not the entire community, but not even the majority of the community. I mean, if you're looking at what LGBT folks actually experienced, the harm that they experienced isn't from being affirmed in their classrooms, by their coaches, with their parents and their doctors, their friends right there. You're seeing them being harmed by these kinds of really hateful debates. But whenever it comes to us, this is our lives. We're not. We're doing this because we love each other. Right? And so that looks like a lot of things. One of the things that we're working on really explicitly is a Celebrating trans joy. We know that whenever we're having these conversations, it's specifically the impacted people are just on, you know, pins and needles, right? Like this is a very stressful, this is a very harmful kind of process for them. Even understanding the legislative process and knowing that if these bills do pass, there's still a veto session. Most, you know, most LGBT Q kids don't know that kind of process. And so making sure that we're highlighting that we are like a joyful community, and that there are people who are fighting and that we've defeated these bills over and over and over again. And what we've seen isn't just resilience, I'm tired of being resilient, but of course I will be, it's that, no, they can't legislate away our joy, they can't legislate away our love, they can't legislate away the kind of chosen families that we build with each other, if our own families don't accept us the way that we are. And so that looks like everything from, you know, buying a friend lunch, who's come out to dancing and singing and just going and living our joyful lives. I mean, especially whenever we're talking about anti trans legislation, oftentimes, the only thing that's featured is just serious harm, right? Just trauma, and devastation and desperation, because this is an incredibly at risk an isolated community. But I mean, they call us gay for a reason. Like we have so much joy and love in our heart and for each other, and taking the time to celebrate that and to affirm each other. And really build that kind of authentic community. That's not like, you know, just paid spokespeople, right. But it's really us being together and taking care of each other.
Well, and I think, I mean, I, again, I obviously don't speak for the entire LGBTQ community. But when you get people together who are celebrating our identities, I mean, that's what this comes down to, right? The stark difference between queer, gay and trans people who are celebrating how they love, who they are in our society, you know, our identities, and you compare that to bills that would take away our health care, take away our ability to play games, because that's obviously such a big issue anyway, right. Take away our ability to literally be legally defined in state statute. I mean, this SB 180, the so called women's Bill of Rights, if you haven't read it, go to chaos legislature.org, because it looks, the way it's written literally just deletes anyone out of state law that identifies as transgender, non binary, intersex, and also, anyone who just doesn't want to have kids like that bill does all of that. And when you compare that type of legislation, to the joy that Melissa is talking about, about a group of people simply just trying to celebrate their identities and be open about that. A very interesting story is painted. It's, I mean, it's good an eagle actually, actually a good metaphor that I just thought of was, if you've ever been to the Westboro Baptist Church, and then the equality house across from it, it's like night and day across the street. It's queer Joy versus pure hate. And that's what's happening in the legislature to it's a very clear picture in my mind, and I'm on the I'm on the joy side, I'll take it. And that's, that's part of this coalition of love. Right, that's part of this work that we're doing is this has won in history, and it will win again here. I'm confident about that.
This is a very powerful message. Thank you both for sharing your stories. Now, let's focus on again, like, again, this community engagement idea, what does that like? You know, you keep talking, are you going to a grassroots activism? How do you guys essentially started this movement of growing love?
Yeah, so I can speak for loud light. But of course, I want to acknowledge that none of this, there's no single organization, anywhere in the state who can do this alone, right. All of our work is in deep coalition with each other. And so there's a wide variety of different kinds of political homes for our folks. It's funny that you bring up the equality house because actually our founder and our Executive Director, moved to Kansas to launch the equality house and didn't expect to be welcomed here, but was just with open arms. The community was just so sweet and kind and generous and accepting. And he was just shocked that the kind of what he assumed Kansas would be Like the politics of this state, we're just so not the people. So actually love that was founded to help people kind of get over this actual, like policy disenfranchisement and cultural disenfranchisement of feeling like when they take action, it doesn't make any difference. Because whenever people do take action together, they can change what their state government looks like. And they can make it more reflective of the actual people of Kansas. And so what does that look like at loud light, we've got organizers all across the state, including southwest Kansas with new frontiers, which is our specific southwest Kansas campaign, that focus on any kind of issue that young people want to get engaged with our role is to teach people what is effective, how they can organize their friends, their family, their neighbors to take collective action, because there's strength in numbers, we know that there's a big difference between one person just standing on a street corner with a sign versus hundreds and hundreds of people coming together to let their elected officials know that, that that's this kind of legislation, this is not representative of the people of Kansas. So we have multiple community action teams across the state, which young people can get engaged in, we have lots of different events, happening all of the time, for folks, from all levels of the kind of political education world whether you've never done anything before or you're a veteran, there's, there's a home for you in this movement.
Well, and you know, obviously, there are a million ways to get involved in this space, I'm speaking as a 24 year old, you know, I'm not like the richest person on the planet. So I can't necessarily just throw money at politics, right. But that's why I get so engaged, right, I go and use my voice in that way to speak up. And so anyone who feels like they can't donate to an organization like loud light, or like mainstream coalition, they can always follow us on social media, see the calls to action we're putting out there is no end to the amount of testimony we will need for bills that we either support or oppose in the State House. Same with your local governments just going and watching those and getting involved. That's the work that I think Melissa and I and and our respective organizations are trying to do is just to make people aware of what's going on and empower them to help out in whatever way we whatever way they feel like they can. And by the way, the money doesn't hurt either. So if you feel so called but but really, you know, it's those voices are very powerful. And just getting people to show up and and do what they feel like they can at whatever capacity they have is, is the most important part of the work that we're trying to do is just to get those people get those people engaged.
Got it? And then as both like we're all very relatively young people, like I mean, how's it been? Like, have you felt your work reflected? Especially let's say in the past few years since you've graduated college?
My work reflected where?
I'm sorry, just in the community?
Oh, oh, yeah. I mean, there's no shortcuts for movement building. Right. I know that the I imagine, Jay gets this question all the time. Well, what is the one thing that I can actually do that's going to magically change everything, and it's not one thing, it's 1000 little things. It's, you know, it's making sure you're voting, even in local elections every single every single time. It's making sure that you're you have a political home, because it's really difficult to follow the legislature, they make it pretty purposefully difficult for a regular person to be able to follow along with even the trans healthcare bands that we saw, they changed the bill out, replaced it with a completely different bill with four hours notice, you know, if you were a regular human, you can't follow things like that. So having a political home is something that's particularly important. But of course, I mean, we're seeing just joyful movement work happening in some of the places that, you know, never in my little baby gay hopes and dreams. I could have imagined. I mean, we've got Pride celebrations happening in Dodge City and Garden City and independence, like we've got. I mean, I was also the president of my gay straight alliance. And, you know, we've got GSA as inequality clubs, that high schools all across the country. And, I mean, it's incredible, especially this, you know, young people are really understanding that when we fight, we will win. It's not always going to be an easy win, but we can win whenever we actually do things together. And so I'm seeing a lot of movement growth happening all across the state.
Great. I think that's all the time we have. Thank you both for coming in really short notice amazing. Again, this was Jay Moyer and this this dialer. Now off the road again. And that's all the time we have. Thank you.