Photo by Morgan Browning
Graphic by Anna McClelland
Kansas House Bill 2727 and Senate Bill 513, proposed on March 16, restrict transgender students from using the restroom of the gender they identify as. They also gives students the right to sue if they report a transgender student for being in a restroom opposite of their assigned gender. They have caused principal John McKinney to consider solutions if the bill passes.
The bills, which will be voted on April 27, identify gender as “the physical condition of being male or female, which is determined by a person’s chromosomes, and is identified at birth by a person’s anatomy.” This definition affects transgender students because they identify as a gender that is different from the gender they were assigned at birth.
The bills would make East’s current policy illegal. As of now, students can go to the bathroom and locker room of the gender they identify as – no matter what chromosomes they were born with. To provide other options, East has created two gender neutral bathrooms in the library and a gender neutral locker room.
Despite the gender neutral options, McKinney believes high school is hard enough already and wouldn’t want to tell a student who’s transitioning which bathroom they can and can’t use. He believes the bills would be a mistake, but the school would abide by them if they became law.
McKinney believes it’s difficult to have to go all the way to the library from certain parts of the building to use a gender neutral bathroom and would like to implement more around the school. However, bathroom construction is difficult for the administration to do since it requires funding from the district. If both bills are passed McKinney would like to expedite the installation of more gender neutral bathrooms.
Transgender senior, who has asked to be referred to as “J.L.”, was born biologically female and now identifies as male. He feels bills that let kids sue the school are hunting trans people. J.L., at first, felt that the government was just conservative and hated trans people. But after a discussion with his family, he now feels it’s a way for Brownback to defund the schools with the $2500 charges while hurting transgender students.
Kansas Representative Stephanie Clayton (R) said she opposes the bill due to the costs and persecution of a minority group.
“Right now the states are in massive debt, so we can’t afford to pay students the [$2500] bounty,” Clayton said. “It would be difficult to enforce because what are we going to do, make you all carry your birth certificates with yourself, and birth certificates usually cost you about $15, so who’s going to pay the cost ?”
J.L. believes the cost is not the only reason the bills are unnecessary. In J.L.’s high school experience, only one ‘negative’ comment has been made to him while using the male restroom. While J.L. uses the mens restroom, he would still like to see gender neutral bathroom options on every floor of the school.
Freshman Jaden Fire, who is genderfluid – which means their gender identification may vary over time– agreed that on a day they’re feeling more masculine, having to use the female restroom would make them extremely uncomfortable.
“It’s like if you forced a cisgender girl,[someone who identifies as the gender they were assigned at birth], to go into the men’s room,” Fire said. “You feel unsafe, you feel violated and it can have the exact same effect either way. Emotional gender is just as important as biological, and it’s important to recognize that.”
J.L. feels the bills aren’t necessary because people who identify as the gender they were assigned at birth already have more advantages than transgender people, since they don’t differ from typical gender roles. Being able to go to the bathroom, no questions asked, is one of those advantages. Taking away the right to use those restrooms would take away J.L.’s three years of working with the administration to create a comfortable school setting, such as the gender neutral bathrooms.
One lawmaker who has been pushing the two bills to pass is Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook (R) from Shawnee.
“I think any child or young adult has a right to have their privacy protected when they’re in various stages of undress,” Pilcher-Cook explained to the Kansas City Star. “If someone of the opposite gender just walks in, [the bill] protects them from that situation.”
Not only are transgender students fighting to continue their right to use the bathrooms of the gender they identify with, cisgender students have advocated for them as well. Junior Natalie Roth explained how outraged she would be if the bills passed, since cisgender people will never experience trans struggles. She said it’s important to respect trans people, recognize cisgender privilege, and understand that cisgender people don’t need to be protected from transgender people in the restroom.
“Every day they have to face adversity being trans,” Roth said. “If a trans person went into a bathroom, they are more at risk of being persecuted than cisgender people are by a trans person, and making a big deal makes it more uncomfortable.”
Although Roth supports her trans peers, other East students don’t feel as comfortable. Junior Isaac Schmidt feels that people will abuse the privilege and use the restroom even if they are not transgender. Schmidt also believes that people are born their gender and stay their gender.
“It’s improper for men and women to be undressing in the same area, and that’s kind of what’s going on there,” Schmidt said. “It’s the whole custom of our society, that’s why a bunch of people would be uncomfortable.”
McKinney argued that there’s no statistics and no examples at East that support the theory of people faking their gender to abuse restroom usage. They agree that through education in the school system and making personal connections, the mentality on transgender people will change.
Clayton also believes there is grey area for people who were not born completely chromosomally male or female, and noted that most examples of abuse in bathrooms are between people who are chromosomally similar.
“I think if the real problem is stopping abuse, we are not going to stop sexual assault by persecuting a minority group,” Clayton said. “This bill does not do what they say it does. All it does is persecute innocent people, and cost the state a lot of money that it can’t afford.”