Kansas sets trans athlete rule; gender-affirming care saved
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas board decided Wednesday that high schools and middle schools must see transgender athletes' first birth certificates to decide what teams they can join, while an effort in the Legislature to end gender-affirming care for transgender minors failed.
The Kansas State High School Activities Association's executive board took a key step in helping the state enforce a ban on female transgender athletes in girls' and women's sports. It replaced a policy that allowed decisions to be made athlete by athlete with one that says transgender girls will not be allowed to compete on girl's teams, starting July 1.
The new policy follows a law enacted by the Republican-controlled Legislature earlier this month over a veto from Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly. The governor vetoed five GOP bills rolling back transgender rights, and Republicans are headed toward overriding three more, including a veto of a sweeping bathroom bill.
But GOP conservatives didn't have the two-thirds majorities needed to override Kelly's veto of a bill that would require the state medical board to revoke the licenses of doctors who provide puberty blocking medications, hormone treatments and surgery for transgender minors. The Senate's vote on an override Wednesday was 26-14, leaving supporters one vote shy.
“This bill goes too far in our reaching out to take that place of parental responsibility of supporting their children and with the advice of their medical doctor,” said Democratic state Sen. Pat Pettey, of Kansas City, who voted “no.”
The bills in Kansas are part of a broader push by Republicans across the U.S. against LGBTQ+ rights, particularly transgender rights. At least seven have bathroom laws, at least 21 restrict transgender athletes, and at least 14 have enacted law restricting or banning gender-affirming care.
Supporters of the bill against gender-affirming care in Kansas argued that they were protecting children from making life-altering decisions that they might regret later.
“Sometimes, unfortuntely, we as a Legislature have to be the last line of defense when parents have lost their way, when a health care system has lot its way,” said Sen. Mark Steffen, a Republican from south-central Kansas.
Evidence suggests detransitioning is not as common as opponents of transgender medical treatment for youth contend.
Research also has shown that transgender youths and adults can be prone to suicidal behavior when forced to live as the sex they were assigned at birth. Gender-affirming care for minors has been available in the U.S. for more than a decade and is endorsed by major medical associations.
“We have this freedom now to really be who we are and express who we are, and for folks, for any number of reasons, that’s very uncomfortable for them,” said Derrick Jones, director of the Ackerman Institute for the Family’s Gender and Family Project. The New York-based institute trains family therapists.
Jones, a licensed therapist who works with trans youth, added: “It challenges a system that they’re very used to, and because of their discomfort, they’re willing to support systemic oppression and injustice.”
The Senate voted 28-12 to override Kelly's veto of he bathroom bill, which also applies to locker rooms, prisons, domestic violence shelters and rape crisis centers. The House voted 85-39 to override Kelly's veto of a bill to prevent public schools from having transgender boys room with cisgender boys and transgender girls with cisgender girls on overnight trips.
A vote in the House on the bathroom bill and one in the Senate on the bill dealing with overnight trips are expected Thursday.
As for the restrictions on transgender athletes, the new Kansas State High School Activities Association policy is tied to a requirement for an annual physical for students seeking to participate in sports in seventh through 12th grade. The KSHSAA has said three transgender girls competed in sports during the current school year.
The KSHSAA's executive board also revised the form for reporting results from students' physicals to list the sex assigned a student at birth, instead of just sex.
The new association policy anticipates that the birth certficate closest to a student's birth will govern, and if that isn't availabe, a student will be examined by a doctor. If neither method settles the issue, then a student would compete either on a boys' team or coed team.
“We needed, then, to make sure we had a policy that our member schools could follow that meets the letter of the law, as well as the philosophical basis,” Bill Faflick, the KSHSAA's executive director, told the executive board.