100 Women We Love: Class Of 2019

Susan Ruiz

Photo by Susan Ruiz

Susan Ruiz understands the gravitas that comes with being an elected official. “I often get the microphone to address multiple social issues that most citizens never get to publicly address.” Her desire to advocate for others first led her into social work, while her interest in politics came from her father, a Mexican immigrant. “My dad took his citizenship very seriously and never missed the opportunity to vote,” she says. “Voting was an expectation and dad would tell me that if I didn’t like how things were going, I could change them by organizing and voting.” She took his advice one step further after the 2016 presidential election when she decided to run for office herself. She had gotten tired of complaining and decided it was time to take action. It’s not an easy task for anyone, but in November of 2018, Ruiz accomplished the seemingly impossible: she became the first openly lesbian woman voted into the Kansas State House. “I think by being out,” she says, “by being Latina, by addressing social issues, people see themselves in me. It’s as people have said, ‘Representation matters.’” Among her first acts in office was to co-introduce an amendment to the Kansas Non-Discrimination Act that would have given protection to individuals based on gender identity and sexual orientation. Unfortunately, Republicans in the House stalled the measure. But Ruiz isn’t one to lose hope. “Do you really want to piss off the opposition?” she once asked a crowd of young people at the Statehouse on Equality Day. “Don’t let their hateful words define you. You do you!”  —RK

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