Equality Kansas asks House leadership to discipline representative over hateful email

By: - April 26, 2022 4:22 pm
Tom Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas, urged House leadership to take disciplinary action against Rep. Cheryl Helmer, a Republican from Mulvane, over comments she made in an email about a transgender House member. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

Tom Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas, urged House leadership to take disciplinary action against Rep. Cheryl Helmer, a Republican from Mulvane, over comments she made in an email about a transgender House member. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — Equality Kansas on Tuesday asked House leadership to take disciplinary action against Rep. Cheryl Helmer for “incendiary” comments about a transgender House member.

Helmer, a Republican from Mulvane, said in an April 23 email from her legislator account to a transgender college graduate student that she didn’t appreciate sharing a restroom at the Statehouse with Rep. Stephanie Byers, a Democrat from Wichita. Helmer described Byers as a “huge transgender female.”

Helmer also falsely claimed “wee little girls in elementary and middle and high school … have been raped, sodomized and beaten in the restrooms by these supposedly transgenders who may or may not be for real.”

Tom Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas, sent a letter to House leaders urging them to “take immediate and appropriate action.”

“Helmer’s comments are outrageous, offensive and slanderous,” Witt wrote. “She is going out of her way to perpetuate dangerous, hateful stereotypes of the LGBTQ community — stereotypes that have led to hate crimes against members of the community, and to self-harm by vulnerable LGBTQ Kansans.”

Witt’s letter is addressed to House Speaker Ron Ryckman, Majority Leader Dan Hawkins, Pro-Tem Blaine Finch, Minority Leader Tom Sawyer and Assistant Minority Leader Jason Probst.

Kansas Reflector on Monday first reported on Helmer’s email to Brenan Riffel, a graduate student at the University of Kansas who identifies as transfeminine. Helmer didn’t respond to questions from Kansas Reflector, but the representative referenced the story in posts on her personal Facebook page.

“Wow! My mailbox is full!” Helmer wrote in a Tuesday post. “First- you must remember that the media only publishes what the liberal left want you to hear so they have not told you of the supposedly transgender boys acting as girls who have harassed, raped, sodomized, harmed in school locker restrooms and who may also be under the pretext of competing in athletic Girl events against the girls.”

Helmer also said Kansas Reflector should instead write about “all the plane loads of Mexico Illegal Immigrants that have arrived in the last few days.”

“They are staying at a downtown hotel at taxpayer expense ($800) per room, plus all free meals and free laundry,” Helmer wrote. “And they have those nice big I-phones!”

In his letter to House leadership, Witt referenced a 2015 investigation against Rep. Valdenia Winn, a Democrat from Kansas City who said the supporters of an immigration bill were “racist bigots.” Legislators dismissed the attempt to expel or censure Winn.

Witt’s letter said Helmer’s comments “went far, far beyond anything Rep. Winn said in 2015.”

“Bigotry, transphobia, homophobia, and hatred have no place in the Kansas Legislature,” Witt wrote.

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Sherman Smith
Sherman Smith

Sherman Smith is the 2021 and 2022 Kansas Press Association’s journalist of the year. He has written award-winning news stories about the instability of the Kansas foster care system, misconduct by government officials, sexual abuse, technology, education, and the Legislature. He previously spent 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal. A lifelong Kansan, he graduated from Emporia State University in 2004 as a Shepherd Scholar with a degree in English.

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