With anti-trans bill override, 112 Kansas legislators unleashed hatred

May 11, 2023 3:33 am
Transgender Kansans and their allies rally May 5, 2023, at the Statehouse in Topeka in protest of the "women's bill of rights."

Transgender Kansans and their allies rally May 5, 2023, at the Statehouse in Topeka in protest of the “women’s bill of rights.” (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

Eight-four representatives voted for the law in the Kansas House.

Twenty-eight senators voted for the law in the Kansas Senate.

These 112 individuals voted to codify the so-called “women’s bill of rights” in the Kansas Legislature. Said another way, these 112 individuals do not see transgender people as real people. These are the 112 that hopefully will be seen as some of the most radical extremists to ever step foot into the Capitol building.

These are the 112 individuals who should answer tough questions about what they’ve done.

The time for quiet words and snarky think pieces has passed. Radicals have made it clear that it does not bother them to be called transphobic or bigoted. They simply do not care, because why would they care about the opinions of someone they don’t even consider to be worthy of basic human rights. Do they even consider queer people to be actual people?

The Legislature has adjourned until Jan. 8, 2024. Members get an approximately eight-month break from the chaos they created. However, I can guarantee that during those eight months the radical right that has infested the Kansas Legislature is not resting. They are drawing up battle plans and determining how best to harm minorities in Kansas.

What comes next is anyone’s guess.

I am sure there is a pundit out there who considers themselves the savviest political prognosticator and thinks they know what is coming. I have my own guesses. I believe the Legislature is going to attempt to ban abortion again and further restrict transgender rights. This is not surprising, and I don’t think it is that surprising to anyone who has been paying attention.

The radical right, which includes these 112 individuals, has been waging war on queer people since before even the first brick was thrown at Stonewall. Queer people have been the metaphorical — and literal — punching bag of the radical right and the establishment for decades and centuries.

You may notice that I am using the word queer. Not LGBT, not gay, not LGBTQIA+ or anything else. I am reclaiming what my spiritual ancestors fought and died over. The ability to identify freely and openly as something different, but not bad.

Queer people have existed since before the recorded word. I am sure they will exist in whatever form human society takes in the future.

Queer people have existed since before the recorded word. I am sure they will exist in whatever form human society takes in the future.

– Harrison Baker

Many individuals have had to pretend to be who they are not, or they were lucky enough to be in a position of power that allowed them to be true to themselves without risk of repercussion. People like King James VI and I, yes, the Bible guy, were likely queer. His lovers received multiple accolades and were even landed as nobles.

Others, like Harvey Milk, were not so lucky. A member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, he was assassinated at the age of 48 at the hands of a disgruntled former city employee, upset at what he believed were corrupt city politics.

The 112 individuals who voted for this discriminatory legislation will have to live with the consequences. Not only will transgender folks face newfound discrimination, but they also could suffer potential violence. Discrimination and bigotry beget violence as people become emboldened.

There have been no reports of violence yet, and for that I am thankful, but I do not believe that it will last. If the Legislature gets the opportunity, it will further restrict the rights of queer people. It will become worse, and eventually only those the powerful deem worthy will have rights.

This is why I write about these 112 individuals. 

This is why I call upon the allies of the queer community. It is time for you to stand up and defend us. We are tired, we are hurting, we are being disenfranchised, and quite simply it is not always safe for us to be disruptive.

When you as an ally, especially as a cis straight ally, encounter legislators who voted to overturn the veto of SB 180, ask them how they could even begin to think it was a good idea. 

Ask them how their moral compass became so broken. 

Ask them how they can call themselves Christians when their God (and his son) tells them to love one another.

Keep asking them why they behaved the way they did.

Advocates have spent time and energy highlighting the vote of Kansas City Rep. Marvin Robinson, a Democrat, on this law. But his one vote was just that: only one vote. One hundred and eleven other lawmakers made the same choice.

I don’t know if I have the strength to be unflaggingly hopeful anymore. To be clear, this is not me giving up. This is me recognizing that hoping and believing that Kansas will get better passively is no longer attainable. It will take active action both from the queer community and our supporters to actively repair this state. 

I think it is possible, and thankfully, unlike in the past, more people than not think we are human and that we deserve the same opportunities as everyone else. The time is now to help all of us. The time is right to seize the moment.

We must always remember that we do not stand alone. We are a community, and one that takes care of each other. The future is uncertain, and there are many people who are considering escaping. This is a valid response, as sometimes the best way to fight is to retreat. But we have the momentum to make change. 

I have faith that change can and will happen. Queerness is powerful. Queerness is prolific. Queerness is divine. To my queer siblings, to my spiritual ancestors and to those that will come after me: We will not go gently into that good night, and death shall have no dominion over us.

Harrison Baker is a lifelong resident of Kansas and works as an attorney. Through its opinion section, 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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Harrison Baker
Harrison Baker

Harrison Baker is a lifelong resident of Kansas. He lives in Lawrence with his partner and two cats while working as an attorney.