A new law in Kansas leaves transgender people with a mixed bag when it comes to how they can present their identities. The troubles extend all the way to their very roots. Here is the whole story.
Two Genders ONLY
In July, Kansas officially began recognizing just two genders, the traditional male and female. What’s more, the state now says your classification can’t change after birth.
Democrat governor Laura Kelly vetoed the new law, but Republicans in the state congress overrode her attempted block.
This battle has been brewing ever since Kelly took office in 2019 after a string of Republican governors.
Once in office, Kelly set a policy that allowed transgender people to request new official documents that accurately reflect their current gender identities.
Complete Bodily Autonomy
That same year, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the state’s residents have complete control over their own bodies and gender identities.
A federal judge upheld Kelly’s new policies, saying that state agencies would have to update official documents for trans people going forward.
In the years since, hundreds of Kansas citizens have changed their gender on driver’s licenses and birth certificates.
But Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach went back to that federal judge in June 2023 to ask for him to lift his earlier decision. They conflicted with the new law, Kobach said.
The judge agreed and said any challenges would now have to go through the state courts.
The new law restricting official gender changes set up a slew of legal battles and all but assured there would be some immediate changes.
In mid-September, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment fired one of the first shots in the battle over gender designations on official documents.
Leaning on the new law, the Department of Health announced that they would no longer be changing gender designations on birth certificates.
This follows a similar move by a Kansas judge early in the summer to ban changes to gender on state driver’s licenses.
Violating Constitutional Rights?
That ban will last at least through January of 2024, though the transgender community is fighting back. Five trans people, assisted by Lambda Legal, plan to challenge the law on the basis it violates their constitutional rights.
For now, Governor Kelly is still vocal in her beliefs but is also aware of the realities involved in the current situation.
“As I’ve said before, the state should not discriminate or encroach into Kansans’ personal lives,” Kelly says.
But she admits the trans community is sort of stuck for now: “However, I am committed to following the law.”
With neither side willing to budge, most experts expect the battle over transgender rights to go all the way to the Kansas Supreme Court or maybe even beyond.
For now, transgender people in Kansas are left with no way to complete their identity transformation. And beyond the psychological impact that can have, it also makes for some logistical nightmares.
Many trans people point out the difficulties they’ve had in traveling when the gender on their documents does not match how they present.
Unfortunately, that’s just one of the many struggles trans Kansas residents will have to fight through until 2024, at least.
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