Kansas Democrats describe attempt to ban transgender student athletes as ‘crushing weight’

Athletics association says proposed ban would only affect two students in the state

By: - February 13, 2023 6:21 pm
Rep. Heather Meyer and Rep. Brandon Woodard appear before a House panel

Rep. Heather Meyer and Rep. Brandon Woodard appear before a House panel to testify against a proposed transgender student athlete ban. (Rachel Mipro/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — Heather Meyer teared up Monday as she spoke about her transgender child, who is in middle school and identifies as genderfluid.

She testified before a House panel that is considering another attempt to ban transgender athletes from participating in school sports — a ban that would apply to just two public school students in Kansas.

“I have this crushing weight on me because this is not only my kid, but thousands of kids,” Meyer said. “We are just legislating away their rights and freedoms, and their ability to live a happy life. All they want to do is exist, and for some reason folks in the legislature don’t want to let that happen.”

Democrats in the House said the hearing marked the start of “hate week,” a reference to planned discussions on multiple bills attacking the LGBTQ community in Kansas.


‘Hate week’ lineup

House Bill 2238, which had a hearing Monday, would prevent transgender girls from playing girls sports at the K-12 and college level. Senate Bill 12 would ban gender-affirming health care for transgender people ages 21 and younger.

Senate Bill 233, which is set to be heard Tuesday, would revoke the licenses of physicians who perform gender-reassignment surgery for people younger than 18. The bill also would allow people who had gender-reassignment surgery before the age of 18 to file a civil lawsuit against the physician who performed the surgery.

House Bill 2376, which is scheduled for a Wednesday hearing, would prohibit city or county nondiscrimination ordinances that are more restrictive than state law, which doesn’t include LGBTQ protections.

Senate Bill 149, which would ban drag performances for minors, isn’t yet scheduled for discussion.

Senate Bill 180, which is scheduled to be heard Wednesday, would create a “women’s bill of rights” that would segregate spaces based on biological reproductive abilities, meaning transgender women wouldn’t be allowed in female-designated areas at domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centers, locker rooms or restrooms. 

During a news conference Monday, House Democrats said they would prioritize LGBTQ rights. Rep. Susan Ruiz, a Shawnee Democrat, said she had lost respect for her colleagues in the Senate. Ruiz said Senate President Ty Masterson is intolerant. 

“The president of the Senate is very, very, very anti-LGBT, very anti-trans,” Ruiz said. “He doesn’t care if children kill themselves due to any of these laws that we are proposing. And if he thinks that kids aren’t listening, he is very wrong. Kids are listening.”


Rep. Adam Thomas said a new transgender sports ban was about protecting Kansas women. (Rachel Mipro/Kansas Reflector)
Rep. Adam Thomas said a new transgender sports ban was about protecting Kansas women. (Rachel Mipro/Kansas Reflector)

Fairness in sports

During a Monday House Education Committee hearing on House Bill 2238, which would create the “fairness in women’s sports act” if enacted, lawmakers, parents, college students and others stood to testify about the harmful impact the legislation would have. 

The bill stipulates that female student athletic teams from kindergarten to college only include cisgender girls or women. Under the bill, no governmental agency, athletic association or organization could take action against public education entities for keeping athletic teams or sports divided by gender.

Another part of the bill states that students who have been harmed or deprived of athletic opportunities because their team or sport isn’t limited to cisgender females would have a legal claim to seek redress.

According to the Kansas State High School Activities Association, only two transgender youths in the state that would be affected by the legislation.

Rep. Jerry Stogsdill, a Prairie Village Democrat, said the bill had an extremely limited scope.

“It’s terrible and evil,” Stogsdill said. “It’s hateful, it’s unnecessary, it’s a political attempt to play to the lowest common denominator in the Republican Party.”

Committee chairman Rep. Adam Thomas, a Olathe Republican, said the legislation is meant to safeguard future transgender athletes. The legislation, he said, will be needed with the “way the nation is moving with all of this.”

Thomas said the bill would protect Kansas daughters and women’s sports in the state.

“I know plenty of females who probably struggle with suicide because they’re missing out on scholarships, they’re missing out on opportunities,” Thomas said. 

Meyer said the week of legislation, including the sports ban bill, is meant to wear Democrats in the Legislature down. 

“They are trying to burn us out,” Meyer said.

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Rachel Mipro
Rachel Mipro

A graduate of Louisiana State University, Rachel Mipro has covered state government in Baton Rouge and New Orleans. She and her fellow team of journalists were 2022 Goldsmith Prize Semi-Finalists for their work featuring the rise of the KKK in northern Louisiana, following racially-motivated shootings in 1960. With her move to the Midwest, Rachel is now turning her focus toward issues within Kansas public policies.