Kansas bans transgender athletes from women’s and girls’ sports

One hundred twenty five seats fill the House of Representatives in the Kansas State Capitol to seat the legilators voted in every two years. (Photo by Evert Nelson | The Collegian)

Transgender athletes will be banned from participating in women’s and girls’ sports from kindergarten through college in Kansas following the override of Gov. Laura Kelly’s veto of a bill proposing a transgender student athlete ban.

The veto was overridden by an 84-40 vote in the House of Representatives and 28-12 in the Senate. This marks the third time Gov. Kelly has vetoed similar legislation.

“Here’s what this bill would actually do: harm the mental health of our students,” Gov. Kelly said of the transgender student athlete ban in her March message regarding the veto of House Bill 2238. 

Courage Wortman, a trans non-binary student at Kansas State, said the law affects transgender people in several ways.

“There’s the effect of what directly happens to us, like kids not being able to play sports,” Wortman, senior in gender, women, and sexuality studies, said. “There’s that direct impact. But then there’s also the impact of how people view and talk about trans people, and there’s such a fear built into it. Our identities have been politicized — just me existing — they’re like, ‘You’re trying to start a fight.’”

Proponents of the legislation argue its purpose is to maintain fairness in women’s sports by eliminating what they say is a competitive edge held by transgender women and girls. 

“If my kids were to grow up, I want them to have a fair chance,” Ashlynn Hartman, freshman in agronomy, said. “Allowing biological males to compete against biological females will never be fair.” 

The law, dubbed the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” takes effect July 1, and makes Kansas one of 20 states that have enacted some form of restrictions on transgender athletes.

There are several other bills proposed in Kansas affecting LGBTQ rights. On Tuesday, the Kansas Senate passed Senate Bill 180, a bill that defines sex as “either male or female, at birth” and would require transgender people to use bathrooms associated with the gender on their birth certificate. 

“It’s one after another after another,” Wortman said. “It’s constant. It’s exhausting and draining.” 

Wortman, an advocate for transgender rights, said visibility without protections is dangerous. 

“People talk about visibility a lot. Visibility is great and wonderful, and it’s cool whenever people can see you and recognize who you are and how you understand yourself,” Wortman said. “Since we don’t have those protections in place, we’re also seeing people attack queer people and trans people and this community. We need those protections.” 

For more information on how legislation will affect LGBTQ students visit the LGBT Resource Center in Holton Hall.