One thing is clear when walking away from a conversation with Heather Meyer: She wants to "get shit done."
Meyer was born and raised in Kansas. She grew up in a single-father household, struggling, which she acknowledges is a story many across Kansas share. She is a person with type 1 diabetes who did not have insurance and grew up with a father who also had type 1 diabetes and was uninsured. She understands rationing insulin. Moreover, as a bisexual woman and member of the Kansas legislature, she understands LGBTQ+ issues.
The Democrat tells The Advocate that the summer's U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Dobbs decision, which overturned Roe vs. Wade, marked a turning point for personal rights but that Kansas stood in the forefront against it.
"The August 2 vote proved that people across the country, even right here in the heartland, in the Midwest, really want to make sure that we can preserve a person's right to choose," Meyer says. She points to a 72 percent vote in her district, in the Kansas City metro area, against the amendment that would have outlawed abortion in Kansas.
"What that means, especially in a state like Kansas where the Republicans have a supermajority, we have to get more folks like myself from the queer community out there and involved in this fight, directly at the legislative level so that we can stop these bills at the state level before they get worse," says Meyer, who was appointed last year to fill the Kansas House seat vacated by Rep. Brett Parker's resignation and is running for a full term this November.
\u201cThe fight for reproductive rights has never been more important than it is now & Kansans have been leaders in that fight.\nOver 72% of folks in HD29 voted to protect your right to choose & that's why I'm honored to announce that I have been endorsed by @PPGPVotes! #ksleg\u201d
It is essential to observe that reproductive rights and the Dobbs decision directly affect the way that legislation relates to our LGBTQ+ communities, she notes.
"We can see that the Republican Party wants nothing more than to shove us back in the closet, to bully our kids, and to put everyone at a higher risk of violence with their rhetoric," Meyer says.
She and fellow LGBTQ+ state legislators have faced attacks. "We were called groomers. We were called sinners. We were basically told that we are not worthy of support or being taken seriously," Meyer says.
Nevertheless, despite the attacks (or because of them), she says legislators must stand up and fight for the LGBTQ+ community.
"Our duty as members of the LGBTQ community is to continue this fight and ensure that our communities are protected from attacks from the legislature's right wing," she says.
She says the process has been challenging, especially when sharing personal stories on the legislative floor and discussing how some bills could cause harm to LGBTQ+ families.
"Most Kansans are not politicians and are not concerned with that type of rhetoric," she says. "They see the damage that it does to our communities. Furthermore, they know these people continuing these attacks are only doing shit for themselves, not our communities."
As a social worker, she works primarily with individuals from the LGBTQ+ community, including LGBTQ+ youth. However, Meyer says that she has discovered that there is no widespread constituency in Kansas for anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments.
"What I've seen at the ground floor working one-on-one with folks is that there isn't as much hatred and anger towards the LGBTQ community as politicians want people to think," she says. "These are very obviously [some] out-of-state special interest groups bills that come to us."
Republicans have so little to work with at this point that they must seek support and ideas from outside the state to accomplish anything in Kansas, she says.
Meyer believes her number 1 selling point is that she is not in politics for self-promotion or to push talking points.
"There are people like me," she says, "who are regular people, who have struggled through life, who have tried really hard to make a difference in their communities, who threw their hat into the ring because I just wanted to do shit for people."