Retired teacher wants to be first transgender lawmaker in Kansas House

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Courtesy: Byers for Kansas Courtesy: Byers for Kansas
Courtesy: Byers for Kansas Courtesy: Byers for Kansas
Courtesy: Byers for Kansas Courtesy: Byers for Kansas
Courtesy: Byers for Kansas Courtesy: Byers for Kansas
Courtesy: Byers for Kansas Courtesy: Byers for Kansas

Stephanie Byers is perhaps best known as a transgender woman who taught band at Wichita's North High School for nearly three decades.  She retired last spring and now wants to become a Kansas lawmaker.  If elected, she would become the state's first transgender legislator.

"It is my hope that I will be someone they can place their hope in, that will stand for the things that they've already established that they believe in, and...the issues they find important," said Stephanie Byers.

The South Wichita woman wants to replace long-time Democratic leader Jim Ward in the Kansas House district 86 seat.  Ward is currently looking to move on to the Kansas Senate.

"We're very early in the process right now," Byers said.

While still teaching, she made headlines when she transitioned from Mr. Byers to Ms. Byers.

"For me, being transgender is just another aspect of who I am," she said.  "I'm also a member of the Chickasaw Nation.  I ride a motorcycle.  I'm a musician.  I have bachelor's and master's degrees in education.  These are all just things that make a part of who I am.  It's not what totally defines me."

But she recognizes that if elected she would make state history.

"I do realize that it could be Kansas historic for me to be elected into office and have a person who is transgender serving in our legislature.  But it's not the main emphasis of what's going on," Byers said.

She says she's personally seen a need for Medicaid expansion in the state. 

"I've seen up close and personal young families that struggle with health care because they fell in a place that a simple expansion of Medicaid in the state of Kansas would help them immensely," Byers explained.  "I felt passionately about the fact that there needs to be another voice that will stand and say, 'Yes, we can help.  How can we do this?'  Not why we can't, but how can we?  What are the ways that we can do it to make this expansion happen?"

Byers says she'd also like to play a role in figuring out how to handle increased funding for the state's public school system.

"I'd like to be a part of... at least another voice there that can ensure that funding continues,  And, if anything, can be expanded somewhat,  The children of Kansas are the greatest natural resource we have.  We owe it to them provide them the best public schools we possibly can," she said.

Byers has filed paperwork with the state naming her campaign treasurer, allowing her to begin raising money.  She is also Facebook and website official.  But she has not yet filed her candidacy with the state.  She wants to file by petition, instead of paying the filing fee.  To do that, she plans to begin collecting signatures in the new year.

Jim Ward, who currently holds that seat,  He says he's had a few potential candidates reach out to him already, but has not decided if he'll endorse anyone as his replacement.

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