Diversity pushed to the forefront in Kansas, Missouri after 2020 election results 'break barriers'

Election 2020 LGBT Rights
Posted at 9:32 PM, Nov 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-06 01:09:47-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — While the presidential race has yet to be decided, something that can be declared as a win from Election Night on Tuesday is diversity.

"These representatives who are breaking these barriers, it's coming down to kitchen table topics, education, healthcare, how they're going to put food on the table," said Leon Harden, who serves as the public policy chair for the Mid America LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce.

Sharice Davids made history with her re-election as the first openly gay LGBTQ politician in Kansas and one of the first two Native American women elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

"There's a huge, huge upswing right now of hope coming through the LGBTQ community," Stephanie Byers said the day after winning her election for Kansas' 86th District in the Kansas House of Representatives.

Byers, a retired Wichita teacher, made history in the LGBTQ community by becoming the first trans-person elected to the state legislature from Kansas.

"Until you see someone who looks like you and who seems like you, walking the walk that you want to walk it's hard to know that if it's even possible," Byers said.

Brandon Woodard and Susan Ruiz continued the trend when Kansas reelected them on Tuesday. In 2018, the became the state's first LGBTQ state legislators.

"You have to come back to the places to represent for kids who didn't see themselves like me in politics or in any sort of professional setting growing up because you thought you had to choose between being gay or being a politician or a CEO of a company," Harden said.

But it wasn't just in Kansas, Emily Weber became the first Asian-American woman elected to the Missouri House of Representatives.

PaKou Her holds race, equity and coaching workshops as a consultant with the Tseng Development Group in the metro and says the 2020 election can give hope to others.

"When you can see somebody who looks like you or comes from a life like yours or has a narrative that is similar to yours it inspires you to be able to think expansively about yourself in that position," Her said.

It's personal for Her.

"I'm a mother of two girls to girls of color ...," she said. "My husband is white, (so) they are mixed race and very strongly identify as Asian-American girls and it was very very powerful for me from that perspective, too."

Byers also understood the gravity of the moment.

"It's a statement that says that being transgender is not as much of an issue or an impediment to running for office as people might've thought 10 years ago," Byers said.

"The more that they can handshake and look each other in the eye, the more that I think the less problematic laws, the less problematic bills will run through the House and through the Senate," Harden said.

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