Opinion

On a day celebrating transgender visibility, Kansans offer the best and worst in response

March 31, 2022 2:12 pm

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.”

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.

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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Clay Wirestone
Clay Wirestone

Clay Wirestone has written columns and edited reporting for newsrooms in Kansas, New Hampshire, Florida and Pennsylvania. He has also fact checked politicians, researched for Larry the Cable Guy, and appeared in PolitiFact, Mental Floss, cnn.com and a host of other publications. Most recently, Clay spent nearly four years at the nonprofit Kansas Action for Children as communications director. Beyond the written word, he has drawn cartoons, hosted podcasts, designed graphics, and moderated debates. Clay graduated from the University of Kansas and lives in Lawrence with his husband and son.

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