I've been working through some emotions related to Kansas' recent legislative efforts to criminalize trans* bodies. I grew up there, in the same city currently represented by Jan Pauls, R-Hutchinson.
For those unaware, Kansas recently became the first state to force transgender students into bathrooms and other similar spaces that match the gender identity they were assigned at birth, instead of those that match the gender with which they identify.
HB 2737 and SB 513, misleadingly titled the "Student Physical Privacy Act," offer a bounty of $2500 for any student that reports trans* students for violating this law.
The bills boast language about the "reasonable expectation of privacy" students expect to be afforded in gender segregated states:
Young adults have a reasonable expectation that postsecondary educational institutions in this state will not allow their students to be viewed in various states of undress by members of the opposite sex while using student restrooms, locker rooms and showers.
The presumption at work seems to be that forcing trans* girls back into men's rooms is the protection of young Kansans from sexual assault or unwanted sexual attention. The problem with policies like this is that they afford wide expanses of attention to the protection of cisgender students, often at the expense of the transgender population.
I am ashamed of my birth state for Kansas' legislative failure to stand up in the name of equality for all. But it's not at all unexpected, as turning events go.
Governor Sam Brownback, for example, was widely condemned for repealing Kathleen Sebelius' executive order affording employment protections for LGBT Kansans employed by the state.
It's just another reason Kansas will scare off business, investment, and endanger the loss of Title IX funding -- similar efforts in North Carolina threaten $4.5 billion in Federal Title IX funding -- while exposing at-risk transgender populations in Kansas to ever more threats of abuse and sexual assault.
But that's not why I'm upset.
Yes, Kansas schools will suffer. No, this legislation probably won't last forever. The part that frustrates me most is the seeming willingness of the public to allow this kind of open-ended discrimination to continue because some segments of the voting public are unable to summon the sympathy required to protect the rights of everyone without exposing transgender youth to undue psychological, emotional, or physical stress and trauma.
I grew up knowing that I was a woman, but afraid and unable to coherently articulate that fact to my peers, parents, school advisors, or counselors because I lived in fear of this kind of demonization. Imagine, a 13-year-old trans girl comes out to her parents? Legislation like this would have forced me, as a transgender girl, ideally growing breasts much earlier than I started, into gender-segregated into spaces with my cisgender male classmates.
My life doesn't matter to these legislators. When Leelah Alcorn stepped in front of a semi-truck to beg the world to change, it didn't move legislators in other states to step back and consider the perceived malice directed at people who already have no institutional or familial support. I cried buckets reading her commentary because at 16, I might have done the same.
"I felt hopeless, that I was just going to look like a man in drag for the rest of my life. On my 16th birthday, when I didn't receive consent from my parents to start transitioning, I cried myself to sleep."
The lives of transgender youth in Kansas matter no less than their cisgender counterparts, yet they are deemed fit to struggle against the undue legislative burdens of just 'fitting in' despite overwhelming scientific evidence that desistance in trans* youth is a myth, and that life-affirming transgender healthcare saves lives.
These kids deserve better, just like I did. Call your legislators, call your relatives, call anyone who will listen. Kansas legislators should be ashamed of themselves for allowing this to happen.