As Kansas moves closer to gender-grooming ban, students pressure university to advocate for trans youth | Trending Viral hub


LAWRENCE, Kansas.- As Kansas is on the verge of banning gender-affirming child care, college students are trying to counter Republican efforts to roll back transgender rights by pressuring the state’s largest university to declare itself a haven for trans youth.

The GOP-controlled Legislature on Wednesday approved its proposed ban on puberty blockers, hormone treatments and surgeries for minors, apparently with the two-thirds majorities in both chambers needed to override an expected veto by Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly. Kansas would join 24 other states that prohibit or restrict gender-affirming care for minors; the last of them was Wyoming last week.

But the week before, with a ban already looking likely, the Student Senate at the University of Kansas’ main campus overwhelmingly approved a proposal to add transgender rights policies to the school’s student rights code. The proposal calls on administrators to affirm students’ right to “determine their own identities,” direct staff to use their preferred names and pronouns, and commit to updating students’ records to reflect their gender identities. Administrators have not responded formally.

Lawrence, the university’s hometown between Kansas City and the state capital, Topeka, already has a reputation for being more liberal than the rest of the Republican-leaning state. But students involved with the transgender rights proposal said there is now an urgent need to show that the university will defend LGTBQ young people despite a Legislature that they consider hostile.

“The people in charge have made a decision to support some things that are really cruel, unnecessary and unjustifiable,” Jenna Bellemere, a 21-year-old transgender student, said of the lawmakers. “It’s the students and the younger generation that have to step up and say, no, we don’t think that’s right, and fight against it.”

Republicans in Kansas have been part of a multi-year, nationwide effort by GOP lawmakers to roll back transgender rights. Last year, they overrode Kelly’s vetoes of measures that ended the state’s legal recognition of the gender identities of transgender residents and barred transgender women and girls from participating in K-12 and collegiate women’s sports.

Six months ago, lawsuits from conservative GOP Attorney General Kris Kobach forced the Kelly administration to stop changing the inclusion of “sex” on transgender people’s birth certificates and driver’s licenses.

Chris Raithel, a nonbinary junior at the University of Kansas, was among those working on drafting the Student Senate proposal since last fall. Their goal was not to create a confrontation between the university and the Legislature that could fuel a backlash against the budget cuts, they said, “but we do believe it would be a great service to trans students at the university if these protections were in university policy and “Students would see that they are understood and protected.”

Republicans have pushed for a ban despite opposition from trans youth, families and medical providers in Kansas. The move also goes against the advice of major American medical groups, although England’s National Health Service recently said it would no longer routinely cover puberty blockers or hormone treatment for minors.

Senate President Ty Masterson, a Republican from the Wichita area, described his chamber’s approval as a firm stance against “radical transgender ideology.”

Several doctors are among lawmakers backing the Kansas measure, arguing they are protecting children from potentially irreversible medical treatments with long-term health effects.

“Bias, as some people call it, is based on fear, fear of the unknown, and there’s still a lot we don’t know that we’re embarking on, particularly with minors,” the Republican state representative said. .John Eplee, a doctor from the northeast corner of the state. “This is not meant to be hateful or hurtful.”

Republican Sen. Mark Steffen, an anesthesiologist and pain management doctor in central Kansas, suggested the proposed ban would protect “troubled children” from “wayward parents and a wayward attitude.” health care system.”

Republican lawmakers passed a ban proposal last year but were unable to override Kelly’s veto. This year, his supporters gained a net gain of 12 votes in the House to reach the necessary two-thirds majority there.

In the state Senate, supporters fell one vote short last year, but got it Wednesday from Republican Sen. Brenda Dietrich of Topeka, a former local school superintendent. She changed because this year supporters added a provision that would give doctors until the end of the year to wean patients off puberty blockers or hormone treatments.

Dietrich’s voice shook as he explained his decision to colleagues Wednesday night, saying it was a difficult vote. He said he worried about the potential harm of suddenly stopping treatments, but always agreed with people in his Republican-leaning district who “overwhelmingly” oppose gender-affirming surgeries for minors.

“Their anger at doctors and parents who allow surgeries on children is palpable,” he said.

Even supporters of the ban have acknowledged that Kansas doctors perform few gender-affirming surgeries on minors. Transgender young adults have said in interviews that they first went through months, sometimes several years, of therapy, puberty blockers and hormone treatments.

And critics of the ban said the provision allowing a gradual withdrawal of treatments that reduce suicide risk, while potentially medically better than an abrupt end, does not prevent harm to physical and mental health. of transgender youth.

“Minors and their families already face significant emotional turmoil facing these hateful bills year after year,” Amanda Mogoi, an advanced practice registered nurse in Wichita who has provided such treatments for years, said in an email. eight years. “They won’t want to stop taking life-saving medications.”

While the measure would ban treatments only for people under 18, the college students behind the University of Kansas proposal still see it as a threat to them, in part because they don’t expect Republican lawmakers to stop there. During Wednesday’s House debate, health committee chairwoman Brenda Landwehr suggested that Kansas should consider extending the ban to people in their 20s.

“If I could ban this until a child’s brain was fully developed, I would do it in a heartbeat,” said Landwehr, a Wichita Republican.

Bellemere said that even without a broader ban, doctors could stop treating young transgender adults, fearing lawsuits or other legal problems.

Another transgender student at the University of Kansas, Raine Flores-Peña, a young woman and activist for LGBTQ+ rights who works at the school’s Center for Sexuality. & Gender Diversity, said some friends transferred to other universities after Kansas lawmakers ended the state’s legal recognition of their gender identities. But he began transitioning from it after moving to Lawrence in 2018 and describes himself as very stubborn.

“I don’t want to be kicked out of my own house,” he said.

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