(Topeka) Kansas is banning transgender athletes from women’s and women’s sports from kindergarten through college, the first of several possible new laws restricting the rights of transgender people pushed by Republican lawmakers on the wishes of the Democratic governor.
The Legislature on Wednesday overturned Governor Laura Kelly’s third veto in three years on a bill to ban transgender athletes. It also came a day after state lawmakers passed a sweeping toilet bill. Nineteen other states have imposed restrictions on transgender athletes, the latest of which is Wyoming.
The Kansas law will take effect July 1 and is one of hundreds of proposals Republican lawmakers across the United States have passed this year to push back LGBTQ rights. Kansas lawmakers who support the ban are also considering ending gender-affirming care for minors and restricting restroom use.
The measure approved by Kansas lawmakers on Tuesday would bar transgender people from using public restrooms, locker rooms and other facilities associated with their gender identity, and prevent them from changing their name or gender on their driver’s license. Ms. Kelly should veto it.
“It’s a scary time raising a trans kid in Kansas,” said Cat Poland, a longtime Kansas resident.
The mother of three, who coordinates a gay-straight alliance at her 13-year-old trans son’s school about 40 miles (65 kilometers) northwest of Wichita, finds the “very real threat of having to relocate” “heartbreaking” “.
The ban demonstrates the influence of religious conservatives, reflected in the Kansas Republican Party’s 2022 platform—”We believe that God created male and female”—and echoes the beliefs of many Republicans that their constituents do not like any cultural shift toward acceptance.
“I wish it was 1960, and, you know, little Johnny is a boy and Mary is a girl, and that’s it, period,” Republican State Rep. John Eplee said. , a 70-year-old doctor, during a committee discussion of the toilet bill.
LGBTQ rights advocates say it’s all part of a nationwide campaign by right-wing traditionalists to erase transgender, non-binary, gay and gender-fluid people from American society.
Alex, who lobbied for trans rights with his mother on Capitol Hill in Kansas last week, said it’s good for the mental health of trans kids to play on teams associated with their gender identity, and that most other kids don’t care.
It’s largely adults who “care so much about what trans kids do,” Alex said.
Ms. Kelly told Kansas City-area reporters that she thought lawmakers would end up regretting voting for “this really awful bill.”
“It breaks my heart and it’s certainly disappointing,” she said.
The first state law on transgender athletes, in Idaho in 2020, came after conservatives backed out of the nationwide backlash to a short-lived 2016 toilet law in North Carolina. In Kansas, the biggest hurdle for conservatives has been Laura Kelly, who narrowly won reelection last year after running as a political centrist.
Ban supporters would not have been able to override Ms. Kelly’s veto this year had not the lone Democrat sided with them against the governor. Rep. Marvin Robinson of Kansas City told reporters he had wanted to “meet in the middle” but found the debate very divided. He said he prayed for guidance ahead of the vote.
Two Kansas City-area LGBTQ Democratic lawmakers were particularly upset because they thought Republicans were happy about the vote in the House.
Rep. Heather Meyer stood up, unzipped her jacket, and displayed a “Protect Trans Youth” t-shirt before making a rude gesture as she left the room. Rep. Susan Ruiz yelled at GOP members, briefly insulting them before being told she was out of commission.
Across the United States, proponents of these bans argue that they maintain fair competition. Athletics last month banned transgender athletes from competing internationally, adopting the same rules as swimming last year.
Supporters say they are also making sure that cisgender girls and women don’t lose out on scholarships and other opportunities that didn’t exist for them decades ago.
“Over the past 50 years, women have finally been able to celebrate our differences and create a division that has allowed us to achieve similar athletic endeavors as our male counterparts,” said Caroline Bruce McAndrew, former Olympic swimmer and member of the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame in Wichita.
LGBTQ rights advocates acknowledge that arguments about competition resonate outside of the conservative Republican base due to the long-held assumption that men and boys are naturally stronger than women and girls.
They are also frustrated that the debate often centers on whether transgender athletes have or can win championships.
Hudson Taylor, a three-time American college wrestler, said youth sports should be about learning discipline, “healthy habits” and having fun in a supportive environment. He founded and leads the pro-LGBTQ group Athlete Ally.
“There has been a professionalization of youth sports over the past 40 years,” Taylor said. “A lot of times, legislators and people who oppose the inclusion of transathletes really speak directly to the most elite, talented athletes and Olympic hopefuls. »
The Kansas measure bars transgender athletes from women’s and girls’ teams beginning in kindergarten, even though sports and other extracurricular activities are not supervised by the Kansas State High School Activities Association until seventh grade.
This is one reason why LGBTQ rights advocates doubt that the real issue is fair competition. Another is the scarcity of transgender female athletes.
The state association said three transgender girls participated in sports in grades 7 through 12 this year, including two seniors. Taylor said transgender athletes in college were likely fewer than 500. The NCAA says about 219,000 women play college sports.
The international ban on athletics does not affect a single transgender female athlete.
Cat Poland, the Kansas mom with a trans son, said, “They keep taking the next step, next step, next step, how far are trans people supposed to go? Where can they exist to be safe and live a happy and fulfilled life? »