Opinion

Anti-trans legislation in Kansas hurts LGBTQ+ youth. But we can all do something about it.

April 25, 2022 3:33 am
Legislators have shown themselves all too willing to pass legislation targeting transgender Kansans, writes Erica Treto. With elections coming up, we can all make our voices heard on this important issue.

Legislators have shown themselves all too willing to pass legislation targeting transgender Kansans, writes Erica Treto. With elections coming up, we can all make our voices heard on this important issue. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images)

Kansas Reflector welcomes opinion pieces from writers who share our goal of widening the conversation about how public policies affect the day-to-day lives of people throughout our state. Erica Treto is a student at Wichita State University, where she is majoring in psychology with minors in political science and sociology.

Kansas is one of a handful of states that have introduced anti-LGBTQ+ bills this year specifically targeting transgender women. There have been various anti-trans bills (HB2210, SB214, SB208 and SB484) introduced in the GOP-controlled Kansas State Legislature this session. 

A version of one of these bills, SB484, passed the Kansas Senate and House by 25-13 and 74-39 margins.

SB484 requires that student athletic teams only include members who are of the same biological sex, unless the teams are designated as co-ed. The bill would prevent transgender women from competing in women’s sports in public schools that align with their gender identity.

On April 15, Gov. Laura Kelly vetoed the bill, stating: “We all want a fair and safe place for our kids to play and compete. However, this bill didn’t come from the experts at our schools, our athletes, or the Kansas State High School Activities Association. It came from politicians trying to score political points.”

This is not the first time the Kansas Senate has tried to pass bills such as SB484. Last year, Kelly vetoed SB55, a bill similar to SB484 and SB208. With two consecutive years of such bills, who’s to say what else legislators might propose to target an already marginalized group?

In a poll by the Trevor Project, 85% of transgender and nonbinary youths — and 66% of all LGBTQ+ youths — say recent debates about state laws restricting the rights of transgender people have negatively affected their mental health. LGBTQ+ youth already experience higher rates of suicide and bullying at schools.

These bills are nothing more than transphobic. Young trans girls and women in Kansas deserve the opportunity to play sports in their public schools without interference. The purpose should be for young athletes to build teamwork skills and to have a sense of community with others. The only thing bills such as SB484 would accomplish would be to further alienate transgender children in schools from what should be safe spaces for them to be themselves.

I have been a Kansan since birth. Most importantly, I am an LGBTQ+ Kansan. I grew up in southwest Kansas and never felt comfortable being myself in school in terms of my sexuality and gender. A part of that is that I never wanted my queerness to be questioned or ridiculed, but I don’t regret my choice. Many members of my community must do what is necessary to survive in a conservative state such as Kansas.

However, I commend every child in this state who isn’t afraid to be themselves, especially being openly transgender or nonbinary. I don’t want to live in a state where laws such as SB484 cause them to feel that they don’t belong or make them feel less human. Everyone deserves the freedom to be who they are, and we should be celebrating the diversity we have in this state.

Queer people have suffered enough already. Why do our identities have to continue to be persecuted?

As the Nov. 8 general election draws near, it is important to note that Kelly is running for reelection. With the possibility that the Kansas State Legislature will continue to propose such anti-LGBT bills, it’s important to make sure our voices are heard in this upcoming election.

This veto wouldn’t have happened with a Republican governor. The declared Republican candidate, Attorney General Derek Schmidt, stated on his Twitter account that he would have signed the bill. LGBTQ+ rights will continue to be targeted across the United States, and it’s important to also speak with our vote on the future we want in Kansas.

If you are someone who believes that bills such as these should not become a reality in our state, consider registering to vote and make your voice heard.

Through its opinion section, the Kansas Reflector works to amplify the voices of people who are affected by public policies or excluded from public debate. Find information, including how to submit your own commentary, here.

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Erica Treto
Erica Treto

Erica Treto is a student at Wichita State University, where she is majoring in psychology with minors in political science and sociology. She lives in southwest Kansas.

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