BY ELLINOR COUCHMAN
On Tuesday, members of Fort Hays State University’s Gender-Sexuality Alliance hosted the “Write for our Rights” event–seeking to oppose recent anti-transgender legislation in Kansas. The bills opposed are SB233, SB12, SB180, HB2238, HB2376, and SB149.
While details vary, every bill seeks to relegate transgender identity.
Writing to Sen. Rick Billinger, Gov. Laura Kelly, and Rep. Barb Wasinger were the groups’ top priorities.
Attendee Lua Bennight recently came out as a transgender woman, and she says the response has been mixed.
“A lot of my friends and peers back in my hometown are very transphobic, and when I came out, I did lose some friends that I’ve known since I got here,” Bennight said.
Bennight’s hometown, Rockford, Illinois, is hundreds of miles away from Hays. Despite falling in love with Kansas, she may leave the state if this legislation comes to pass.
“Just being trans in Kansas is already hard enough, but trying to transition–especially in this time–it’s probably even harder just to get on estrogen, to get on anything, to even get my name changed,” she said.
Her story was common among those in attendance. Sophomore T. Silver moved from New Jersey in fourth grade. As a nonbinary person, they struggled to find acceptance throughout high school.
“I love everything about Kansas except the discrimination I face,” they said.
Other attendees echoed a similar sentiment regardless of gender. Junior Charlie Schmanke, Treasurer of the Gender-Sexuality Alliance, began identifying as a man in the spring of last year. Recently though, Schmanke realized that transitioning was the wrong choice for them, and they tacitly associate with de-transitioners. Regardless of their personal experience though, they still showed their support.
“I saw it as an opportunity to expand my civil duties and my citizenship and really make a positive impact,” Schmanke said.
For Schmanke, transgender rights hit close to home. Given de-transitioners’ reputation of rejecting LGBT issues outright, they believe visibility is imperative.
“It’s easier to discriminate against someone you don’t know and that you don’t understand, and when you are exposed to it more, then it’s harder to discriminate against it,” they said.
While circumstances are bleak thus far, Write for our Rights was not without its highlights. On Thursday, event host Kiernan McCarty reported on Discord that Ken Rahjes, a member of the Kansas House of Representatives from the 110th district, responded to an email sent by Lua Bennight.
“Let’s keep going, keep pushing,” McCarty said. “We can have another writing event if we must. We’re not gonna stop till our rights are secured and we’re left alone.”