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A Kansas state senator has switched parties from Republican to Democrat, saying she cannot be complicit in supporting President Donald Trump.
Sen. Barbara Bollier’s switch was dramatic but not entirely surprising. The Mission Hills lawmaker has a long history of bucking Republican leadership, and had endorsed Democrat Laura Kelly for governor. Her district also leans Democratic.
She cited Trump as a factor in her decision, as well as a state Republican party platform change on transgender identity. She has also clashed with Republicans on a number of issues, from Medicaid expansion to gay rights.
“I cannot be complicit in supporting that,” Bollier said, referring to Trump’s presidency. “I can’t call it leadership. I don’t even know what to call him. He is our president, but he is not representing my value system remotely.”
In February, the state party adopted a resolution opposing efforts to validate transgender identity. The resolution was controversial at the time, and in June the party inserted language into its platform that says: “We believe God created two genders, male and female.”
“That was my final, last straw. I support the people of Kansas. I do not condemn whoever they are,” Bollier said.
Bollier said she had been a registered Republican for decades and had been a moderate for all of that time. But the party is “hell bent” on removing moderates, she said.
After Bollier’s public support of Democratic candidates earlier this year, Senate President Susan Wagle, a Wichita Republican, stripped her of a vice chair position on the health committee. Bollier is a retired physician who often focuses on health legislation, including support for Medicaid expansion.
“That is my expertise area and what the state needs from me … I need to be able to work in those areas,” Bollier said.
Wagle said Bollier had a voting record more liberal than some Democrats. It’s “no shock she joined the party of Nancy Pelosi,” she said.
“The only surprise is that she didn’t end her façade of being a Republican sooner,” Wagle said.
When Wagle removed Bollier as vice chair of the Senate’s health committee in July, she called Bollier’s endorsements of Democrats “embarrassing” and said she had no choice but to strip her of the leadership position. Bollier had lost credibility within the Republican caucus, Wagle said.
“While we respect differing opinions in our caucus, it is unacceptable to betray members of your own party by publicly endorsing leftist Democrats,” Wagle said at the time.
Striking a more conciliatory tone, Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, R-Overland Park, said it is unfortunate to lose a member of the Republican caucus, but said the change would be healthy for Bollier personally, her constituents and the Republican caucus. “I wish her the best,” Denning tweeted, adding that he looks forward to continuing to work with her.
Gov-elect Kelly said Bollier is a friend and ally. In the run up to the November election, Bollier had been an outspoken supporter of Kelly, and spent election night at her watch party.
“I applaud her courage. She has always demonstrated a commitment to working across the aisle and standing up for Kansas families. I look forward to working with her as we rebuild our state,” Kelly said in a statement.
Democrats will now control 10 out of 40 state Senate seats. In the House, Democrats control 40 of 125 seats.
Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat, welcomed Bollier to the caucus and called her a “longtime friend and respected colleague with the best interests of Kansas at heart.”
Bollier served in the House from 2010-2016 and has been in the Senate since 2017. She will be up for reelection in 2020.
Bollier’s district often votes Democratic. Every Democrat running for statewide office in 2018 won her district, according to Patrick Miller, a political scientist at the University of Kansas. Bollier received 54.3 percent of the vote in her last election, in 2016.
“Even amongst average voters, moderate Republicans are disappearing. Liberal Republicans are disappearing. They’re leaving the Republican Party and in many cases becoming Democrats,” Miller said.
Across the country, suburban districts — like the one represented by Bollier — moved to the left in the November election as voters vented anger at Trump. The shift contributed to the defeat of Republican U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder.
And in at least a handful of instances, elected officials have jumped parties as Trump upends the nation’s politics.
The governor of West Virginia became a Republican in 2017. In July, a Republican commissioner in Oregon became a Democrat. And in October, a Maryland Republican state representative became a Democrat, citing Trump.
Bollier said she votes for her district and will continue to do so.
“They elected me as a moderate knowing nine years of voting history that I do not vote along party lines,” Bollier said. “Never have, never will.”
Hundreds of people in New York City in February protested a Trump administration announcement that rescinded an Obama-era order allowing transgender students to use school bathrooms matching their gender identities. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
A new survey finds significant anxiety and fear among teenagers who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer.
The survey findings, released Tuesday, are based on the answers of roughly 12,000 youth ages 13 to 17 who responded to an online solicitation by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and other advocacy groups. Researchers say they reveal the depth of challenges that LGBTQ teens face.
At home, at school, in social circles and communities, these teens are experiencing high levels of anxiety, feelings of rejection and fears for their safety, according to a report on the survey findings.
“Despite the change in social attitudes, they’re still struggling,” said Ryan Watson, an assistant professor in human development and family studies at the University of Connecticut who is one of the researchers. “We still see alarming disparities and experiences, disheartening mental health problems and self-esteem issues.”
The report notes that nearly three-quarters of the teens responding to the survey said they have been threatened verbally because of their sexual identity. Ninety-five percent reported having trouble sleeping.
Problems associated with being transgender were particularly pernicious. About half of transgender teens surveyed said they were unable to use school restrooms or locker rooms that match their gender identity, with most of this group citing safety as the reason.
Yet teens generally shared similar concerns about school overall: Just 26 percent of those surveyed said they felt safe in their classroom.
The report comes at a particularly challenging time for LGBTQ individuals, with the Trump administration scaling back protections across several federal agencies. The Justice Department announced last July that civil rights laws do not include workplace protection against sexual orientation discrimination for lesbian and gay individuals. The Department of Education has reversed an Obama-era directive mandating schools protect and accommodate transgender students.
“Anecdotally, we have seen the Trump decision to rescind critical guidance [for schools] has caused fear and worry for transgender students and their families,” said Rebecca Kling, education program director at the National Center for Transgender Equality. “We’ve seen many cases where schools feel like they can roll back protections.”
These changes are particularly disappointing, say gay and transgender activists, because as a candidate, Donald Trump repeatedly expressed support for the LGBTQ community, once tweeting, “I will fight for you while Hillary brings in more people that will threaten your freedoms and beliefs.”
The survey, conducted online between April and December 2017 by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and the University of Connecticut, asked about behavioral health, peer relationships, exercise and fitness, participation in sports, tobacco use and other elements of the teens’ lives.
“We wanted to know about a range of things, everyday lived experience, not isolating one aspect,” said Ellen Kahn, the foundation’s director of the Children, Youth and Families program.
To solicit subjects, the researchers advertised for LGBTQ teens on social media — Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat. Among the advocacy and nonprofit groups that helped publicize the survey were Planned Parenthood and the Trevor Project, which focuses on suicide prevention among
LGBTQ youth. The gay activist Tyler Oakley, whose videos on YouTube have reached more than 650 million people, also took part in spreading the word about the survey.
The results cannot be considered representative nationally because participants were not selected through a random sampling method.
Of the LGBTQ teens responding, 77 percent said they felt down or depressed in the prior week. Of those LGBTQ teens whose families did not know of their sexual orientation, 78 percent said they heard negative comments from their families.
Comments included in the report reflect their worries:
● “I’m not out to my parents for safety reasons.”
● “At school I have been bullied and called slurs by other students.”
● “My town is very tiny, racist, and homophobic. I don’t trust anyone to talk about LGBTQ issues.”
Ma’ayan Anafi, policy counsel at the National Center for Transgender Equality, was not surprised by the results of the survey.
“It’s consistent with what we’ve seen,” Anafi said. “Trans students face immense harassment and discrimination.”
One of the biggest surprises to researchers was the obvious interest in the survey by so many LGBTQ teens.
“It shows that youth are really excited about being asked about their experiences,” Watson said. “They care about being heard.”
I am the mother of a transgender kid, Kai. She began transitioning at the age of four while being raised in a very conservative, Christian community in the South. When Kai came out as transgender, we received so many death threats and felt so unsafe that we were forced to move.
The author’s daughter, Kai, began showing signs she identified as female as early as 18 months old. Kimberly shared her daughter’s transition story with GH last year.
COURTESY OF KIMBERLY SHAPPLEY
When Roseanne premiered, there was so much controversy surrounding it that I didn’t want to watch it with a negative mindset. In the weeks leading up to the first episode, I hoped beyond hope the show wasn’t going to be another attack on the LGBTQ+ community. I knew it would be talking about a population that’s at a very high risk of harming themselves. A group that’s at risk not because they’re transgender, but because of the way the transgender community is often treated and portrayed through media.
Roseanne Barr has made some very trans-phobic statements in the past, but it’s my hope that having a non-binary grandson was her way of trying to make that right. It’s good that a conversation is being encouraged. It’s even better that the show is portraying a child who is gender diverse, and that Mark is being shown as loved and supported by family.
Mark, Darlene’s son, was the focus of an early episode in the new season, during which Dan pushed him to dress more traditionally masculine.
At the same time, I want to ask: Is Mark going to get a nuanced and meaningful storyline, or is this just a token “diversity” cast member? Are the writers meeting with people from all areas of the LGBTQ+ community to make sure they’re accurately representing them? It’s important to remember that people are more than their labels. No matter where you are on the gender spectrum, you deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.
Any time we have an opportunity to bring up a controversial topic in a way that fosters learning, it’s a chance to make life better for people like my daughter — people who are transgender or non-binary. These writers have the ability to make the world a better place through their platform, and I hope they’ll continue to go in the right direction. So even though my first reaction was an uneasy “please don’t,” I’ve since then realized how grateful I am that it’s being addressed at all. Barr has made very trans-phobic statements, but Mark may be her way of making that right.
I still haven’t watched Roseanne and don’t plan to, but at least my response to it now comes from a more loving place: that hopefully the writers are bringing the conversation around gender identity to an audience that might not otherwise hear it. At at the end of the day, however a person identifies is what we should respect. And if Roseanne gets people to see that, I support their mission wholeheartedly.
For all those who are lacking the warmth and love they deserve during this time of year, here’s a place to find your cozy loving home.
From the website:
Welcome to Your Holiday Mom – an online space where supportive moms gather to post a holiday message to all LGBTQ children, teens and adults who are without family support and who would like a “stand-in” holiday family. We know that not every mom is ready to accept her own LGBTQ child exactly as-is (as hard as this is for us moms here to imagine), so we have written to extend our love beyond that of our own family.
Who are these moms? We are everyday friends and family from everyday homes. Many, but not all, have LGBTQ children of our own. Many, but not all, are straight. Each mom speaks to the holiday/s she observes, from Thanksgiving to New Years Day. In other words, even our writers here represent diversity!
The vast majority of us came together because they heard about the project, yet most have never met me or each other. The common bond we share is that we are so full of love and pride for our own children – LGBTQ and straight – we wanted to extend ourselves beyond our own families and do something more.