Shawnee City Council members’ latest antics exploit fear of LGBTQ+ Kansans

December 28, 2022 3:33 am

Extremist members of the Shawnee City Council have used fear of LGBTQ+ people to gain political advantage, writes Jae. Moyer. (Liz Hamor)

The Kansas Reflector welcomes opinion pieces from writers who share our goal of widening the conversation about how public policies affect the day-to-day lives of people throughout our state. Jae Moyer (They/Them) is a local community political activist in Overland Park.

Time and again, the new members of the Shawnee City Council have made it clear that they want to take no part in respecting the LGBTQ+ community.

Current members have spoken from the dais about how “activists opened the door to these things being discussed by the council” when we pushed for a nondiscrimination ordinance in the community. I would argue that they are the exact reason we needed to do so.

Most recently, they criticized the presence of Shawnee police officers at KC PrideFest. In an article about the situation at our local news site, the Shawnee Mission Post, I said the harmful rhetoric pushed by council members went too far, and that such language and behavior leads to violence towards members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Let me dig deeper into this idea for a moment.

First, LGBTQ+ Americans are at higher risk of self-harm and suicidal ideation due to challenges they must face in life. If you aren’t LGBTQ+, it’s difficult for me to explain the pain and fear that many of us face when we need to come out, or simply exist in our society not knowing what type of hateful behavior we’ll run into. It seems that many in our country (the majority of the Shawnee City Council included) cannot simply allow people to live their best lives.

Council members seem to think that law enforcement officials doing their job and sharing about it on social media is “bad optics.”

I think I can see what’s really going on: This is a political game to them. To me, this is real life. Their decision to be willingly and openly homophobic and transphobic puts others in harm’s way.

We need to ask ourselves why governing bodies such as the Shawnee City Council stick out like a sore thumb. Their neighbors do not seem to have these issues. Overland Park, Leawood, Lenexa, even the current governing body for the city of Olathe don’t talk about the LGBTQ+ community or make the news like they do in Shawnee right now.

Members of the Shawnee City Council seem to think they can play political power games with their constituents.

If you’ve never gone to speak at a city council meeting, don’t let Shawnee be your first, especially if you’re on the opposite side of what members want to get done.

– Jae Moyer

If you’ve never gone to speak at a city council meeting, don’t let Shawnee be your first, especially if you’re on the opposite side of what members want to get done. Last year (before they absolutely destroyed their city staff), the council decided that one of their most important policy points to include in the city’s legislative agenda was support for the transphobic “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act.”

I spoke at that meeting and pleaded with council members not to include the policy in their agenda. I did this because I didn’t believe it should have been a legislative priority for the city. That’s how democracy works. You don’t like something an elected official is doing, you speak up about it. Plain and simple, right?

Apparently not in Shawnee.

What I didn’t expect to see and hear from council members was blatant gaslighting and work-around excuses from cisgender straight people who obviously know nothing about what it’s like to be a member of my community. The worst part was that I’ve heard all the rhetoric before.

Every single talking point that council members spat out is some transphobic trope that can’t possibly be how they truly feel. That language  is not only overused by ignorant politicians and activists, but it’s also heartless — showing zero empathy for the struggles that LGBTQ+ Kansans go through.

We see discussions about the LGBTQ+ community coming up time and time and time again on the council. Why? Do members truly feel as though there is a “queer crisis” in their city? Or (spoiler alert, this is the one) are they creating a fake issue to use as a scare tactic come election season?

It’s no secret that we are experiencing a rise in anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric from those who share political ideology and who understand that all politics is local. That’s why these conversations keep appearing at school board meetings and city council meetings. Take the anti-transgender policy that was brought up out of nowhere and passed in the Gardner-Edgerton school district in southern Johnson County.

These extremists have an agenda, and they want to implement it.

The question we should ask ourselves is whether that agenda actually helps our community. There have been some terrible policy decisions made by the Shawnee City Council, such as the unhinged ban on what they call “co-living.” The council insists it’s good policy, but the measure disproportionately affects certain members of their immediate community.

How does discriminating against students who identify as transgender actually help their constituents? Please answer that question without fabricating some story about one girl in a state halfway across the country who lost a swimming match because “she was playing against a biological male,” and how you should please “think of my daughter.” That invalidates trans people’s identities.

These folks love to use the LGBTQ+ community as their boogey-people because it’s easy. We’re different.

In elementary school, we all should have learned that treating someone unfairly because they’re different from us isn’t just wrong: It’s bullying. Those in positions of power shouldn’t use that power to bully us. You’ll be surprised to know that we don’t like that very much.

My community needs people to step out and run for local office. We need advocates who show up to meetings of county commissions, city councils and school boards and call out officials when they’re being homophobic or transphobic. And we need leaders who won’t destroy the cities and state we love.

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Jae Moyer
Jae Moyer

Jae Moyer (They/Them) is a local community political activist in Overland Park. They focus on standing up for LGBTQ+ rights in Kansas and have been involved in local politics in many capacities. Most notably, in 2021, Jae ran for the Johnson County Community College Board of Trustees and would have been the first nonbinary elected official in the state of Kansas. They received more than 33,000 votes. They have also worked on and volunteered for numerous political campaigns across the state.