Hot Take Kansas! It’s Not A Phase!


Ted Eytan

A large pride parade took place in Washington in June 2018, championing acceptance of all members of the LGBTQ+ community.

A bill introduced in the state legislature of Kansas on February third will criminalize any doctor who provides transgender youth who choose to transition with gender reassignment surgery or other care. Doctors can be sentenced to up to eight months of prison time and lose their medical licenses for unprofessional conduct. 

Doctors base a baby’s sex at birth based on biological terms—chromosomes, hormones, anatomy, etc. But the gender identity of an individual—the intrinsic sense of being male, female, both, or neither—does not always adhere to their biology. Being transgender does not have one definition. Transgender people can be anyone who identifies as a gender different to their assigned biological sex at birth. This might be a male who identifies as a female or vice versa. A transgender person might also identify as neither male nor female or maybe even both.  According to the Williams Institute, around 1.4 million Americans identify as transgender. “It takes a lot of courage to buck the culture’s norm that gender is binary,” says Helen R. Friedman, Ph.D., a psychologist in St. Louis who specializes in gender identity and transgender issues. “The truth is, gender does exist on a continuum. Meaning, there’s a lot of in-between.” In the United States, some of the first transgender organizations and publications were seen in the 1950s and 1960s, but law and healthcare did not respond positively to the increasing recognition and awareness of transgender individuals. With Christine Jorgenson being the first person to have gone through reassignment surgery from male to female, she created a worldwide sensation but also controversy. She was denied a marriage license in 1959 to a man who lost his job when his relationship with Christine became public. Fast forward to 2021, and discrimination against transgender individuals still occurs. 

According to the Kansas Reflector, Republican representatives Brett Fairchild, Randy Garder, Cheryl Helmer, and Bill Rhiley cosponsored the legislation, which makes it a crime if doctors were to do supposedly “unlawful” gender reassignment service to individuals younger than 18.  This proposal states that gender is defined as “the biological state of being female or male based on the individual’s sex organs.” Mercury News states that this bill does not only apply to performing surgery for minors but also other treatments such as prescription of drugs to block the initiation of puberty and doses of testosterone or estrogen. Tom Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas stated, “They can’t beat up on the grown-ups anymore, so now they’re going after little kids, and I for one am sick of it.”

While same-sex activity is legal in Kansas and the state passed legislation in 2020 that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, individuals that identify as LGBTQ+ face a lot more legal problems in the state compared to heterosexual people. Same-sex marriage was banned in Kansas until a U.S district court ruled it unconstitutional in 2014. Representatives Bill Rhiley, Randy Garder, and Cheryl Hellmer, who sponsored this bill, claimed that same-sex marriage was a “parody,” and called homosexuality a religion with worshippers who follow a daily code. When asked the reason why he sponsored this bill, specifically, Rep. Garber said that it is created to protect minors as they are “too young to be making those decisions.” 

Although the state has always been hesitant towards legislation for members of the LGBTQ+ community, this bill comes as a shock for two reasons. One, it targets the youth of the state. According to a 2013 study, 40% of transgender youth in the state had attempted suicide, but that number has decreased to 35% as more treatments were made available. “This would take that away,” Witt said. “If something like this were passed, I think we’re going to see dead kids.” Second, the state just elected its first transgender female to the Kansas House of Representatives during the 2020 general elections, along with Rep. Brandon Woodard and Rep. Susan Ruiz, who became the first openly gay members of the Legislature in 2018. “A young Stephanie Byers should not have to walk the walk that I did,” Byers said. “We can make a difference for these kids. And this basically holds back the clock and says, ‘Nope, we’re not doing that.’”

On February 11th, Senator Renee Erickson sponsored legislation that requires K-12 students and college athletes to participate in sports only based on the gender they were assigned at birth. This means that individuals who were declared male at birth but transitioned to female are prohibited from participating in women’s sports programs at their educational centers. This was seen as her response to an executive order made by President Joe Biden that discrimination is forbidden based on gender identity or sexual orientation. He says his order is to have children learn in a safe environment without “worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room or school sports.” There have also been a few other laws that have been passed that target transgender people specifically. Back in 2017, former President Trump placed a ban on transgender people serving in the military, denouncing Obama’s policy. And again in June of 2020, the Trump administration finalized a rule that would remove discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ individuals regarding health care and health insurance. But President Biden has reversed these laws, granting transgender individuals the right to serve in the military. 

Many transgender individuals seek therapy, but it is not a mental disorder in the first place. Many transgender people are depressed or became socially alienated, but those feelings are also brought on by the fear that loved ones will reject them (or have already done so). Laws like this will only make this worse. Accepting transgender people for who they are will not only benefit them but also make the community more united.