On this Transgender Day of Visibility, writes opinion editor Clay Wirestone, we can see good and bad examples from our fellow Kansans. (Getty Images)
Happy National Transgender Day of Visibility, to all trans Kansans. I’m delighted you’re here, and your tenacious courage inspires me.
Also, I’d like to apologize for a handful of other Kansans who have decided to score political points on your lives.
This 2022 celebration comes with two giant asterisks. First, of course, the Legislature has been wrangling over Senate Bill 484. It’s anti-trans discrimination gussied up as a way to protect girls’ sports, a breathtaking distortion for which both Sen. Renee Erickson and Senate President Ty Masterson should feel lasting shame.
Then the Washburn University College Republicans decided to show that theirs is decidedly not a big tent party by inviting conservative author Michael J. Knowles for a speech called “Banning Transgenderism.”
❗️This Thursday at Washburn University❗️The title of his speech is “Banning Transgenderism” Join us in a night full of free speech, facts and new perspectives presented by the one and only @michaeljknowles pic.twitter.com/3X66pb4tje
— Claudia Fury (@ClaudiaFury) March 29, 2022
Note that the title isn’t “We should protect female athletes.” It’s not “I disagree with some things transgender people say.” It’s not “I wonder if this whole gender situation has gotten out of hand.”
Nope. It’s “Banning Transgenderism.” As in, an entire group of people who live and work among all of us. For that matter, people who also serve as Kansas legislators.
Thankfully, Washburn University president Jerry Farley took a stand against callous hatred, writing in an email to campus that while he supported the First Amendment, “I am disappointed when those rights are used to make others feel unwelcome and even unsafe in our community. While we support the right to speak freely, Washburn University does not condone the hate and misinformation spread by the speaker and his supporters.”
No doubt Farley will catch flack from predictable, bigoted corners of the commentariat. But he did the right thing.
— Representative Stephanie Byers (@ByersForKansas) March 29, 2022
High-profile support for this celebratory day also came from Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly. She issued a proclamation marking the occasion. President Joe Biden also noted the date with a forceful statement.
“To everyone celebrating Transgender Day of Visibility, I want you to know that your President sees you,” Biden said. “On this day and every day, we recognize the resilience, strength, and joy of transgender, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming people.”
Farley, Kelly and Biden have the right idea. Transgender people didn’t just pop into existence over the last three or four years. They have always existed, with historical documentation dating to 5000 B.C.
The fact that trans folk now live visibly and authentically throughout our state and country should be a source of pride for all of us. Even college Republicans.
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