As state lawmakers continue to push anti-trans legislation, a fresh complication is cropping up in a number of states. As we saw in Arkansas, for example, a Republican governor, Asa Hutchinson, actually vetoed a deeply discriminatory trans healthcare bill, saying it involved too much government overreach. State lawmakers were able to override his veto and pass the legislation anyway, making it the first state to ban gender-affirming health care for trans people under the age of 18. While this process varies state by state, we can recognize at least a relative victory out of Kansas on Monday.
Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly of Kansas vetoed a bill (Senate Bill 55) that would ban transgender girls and women from participating in girls’ sports teams from public elementary school through state college. In response, state senators 26-14 in an attempt to override the governor’s veto. Legislators came up just below the necessary two-thirds majority—literally, one vote short—and so the measure fizzled out. But as state Rep. Stephanie Byers, the first openly trans lawmaker to represent Kansas, told the Associated Press, the fight is far from over.
As reported by the AP, Byers stressed that “We’re not going to legislate discrimination here” and that it’s a tough fight, but “we’re always going to do it.” As Daily Kos has covered, transphobic and discriminatory bills are becoming law in a number of states, including West Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Alabama, and Mississippi. Initially, Idaho passed one in 2020, though that was quickly suspended by a federal district court. In addition to sports, there are a number of bills trying to stop trans folks of all ages from updating their birth certificates, as well as bills trying to ban physicians from providing gender-affirming health care, like hormones and puberty blockers, to transgender youth.
Fundamentally, the issue of trying to keep trans girls out of girls’ sports is one based on hate and hysteria, not science. When Kelly vetoed the bill in April, she described it as both “mean-spirited” and “unnecessary,” both of which are accurate takes. In a statement regarding her veto, she also pointed out that enacting such legislation would almost certainly harm the state’s economy, in terms of business attraction and retention, which is also an accurate assumption.
Letting trans kids play sports is truly a non-issue and the least concern among most people—but it could seriously become a rallying point in Kansas (and others across the nation), and that’s both deeply sad and concerning. Even the highs and lows of these legislations being introduced, moving, struggling, reviving, approaching a governor’s desk, being vetoed, being revived—it’s all emotionally exhausting, especially for people who already face higher levels of harassment and discrimination, to begin with.
Keaton Vaughn, an openly transgender person, said as much when submitting testimony. As reported by local outlet KSHB, Vaughn stated: “I am not a student, but I am a transgender Kansan. Whenever bills like this come through, they’re attacking all trans people.” Vaughn also described the whole experience as a “roller coaster” adding it was a “relief” when Kelly vetoed it, though, of course, one cannot ignore the possibility that it could be overwritten.
The emotional toll is a big part of why it’s so hard to celebrate young trans people—or any trans people—who show up and speak out against oppression and discrimination. As we covered here at Daily Kos, we’ve seen a literal 10-year-old child and a high schooler speak up on behalf of trans equality. We’ve covered parents giving testimony in support of trans children—and one even being arrested over it. It’s inspiring, brave, and moving. But people also shouldn’t have to beg for humanity, respect, and basic recognition and protections—and especially not literal children.
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