'Blazing the pathway': Retired teacher could become Kansas' first trans lawmaker

For over 3 a long time, Stephanie Byers taught tune and band on the biggest public highschool in Kansas. After seeing how selections made by way of state lawmakers affected her scholars, she determined to business retirement for politics.

“They noticed a base line, a bunch that must be labored with, and did not take into consideration what that implies when a pupil is observing a textbook this is being held in combination by way of duct tape as it outlived its usefulness and the district did not have the cash to exchange textbooks,” stated Byers, who’s working to be the following consultant of Kansas Space District 86, which incorporates a lot of Wichita.

A Democrat who ran unopposed within the primaries, Byers will face off towards Republican Cyndi Howerton, a businesswoman, within the November election. Whilst Kansas is in large part a conservative state, Byers is a sturdy contender in Wichita, a revolutionary enclave that has traditionally swung left.

If elected, Byers has vowed to struggle for larger investment for training and Medicaid enlargement in Kansas, certainly one of a minimum of 12 states that experience now not expanded this system below the Reasonably priced Care Act. She has additionally made civil rights protections a pillar of her marketing campaign in a state the place, in keeping with advocacy crew Freedom for All American citizens, “there are these days no specific, complete statewide non-discrimination protections” for LGBTQ other folks.

When Byers got here out as transgender six years in the past, she was once in large part embraced by way of her scholars and co-workers, an revel in that driven her to develop into a trailblazer for trans educators in her faculty district.

“I noticed that after I got here out as a instructor that I used to be blazing the pathway,” she stated. “A large number of public educators which might be trans won’t essentially come ahead and are available out right through their careers, as a result of the truth that there may be the worry of prejudice goes to be there.”

Stephanie Byers speaks on behalf of transgender educators and scholars at an ACLU rally outdoor of the Excellent Court docket in October 2019.Courtesy of Byers for Kansas

As Republican-backed anti-transgender law — together with a lot designed to stay trans scholars out of public restrooms and stale sports activities groups — proliferated in statehouses around the nation, together with in Kansas, Byers met with faculty officers and spoke at group occasions to coach the general public about gender identification.

Remaining October, she spoke out on behalf of trans educators and scholars at an American Civil Liberties Union rally outdoor of the Excellent Court docket, which on the time was once listening to arguments in circumstances that might decide whether or not employers had a proper to terminate staff on account of their sexual orientation and gender identification. In 2018, a 12 months sooner than she retired, Byers was once named each state Educator of the Yr by way of GLSEN Kansas and nationwide Educator of the Yr by way of GLSEN, the nationwide LGBTQ formative years advocacy group with chapters around the nation.

If Byers wins her election on Nov. three, she would be the first out transgender lawmaker from Kansas. She is one in a “rainbow wave” of a minimum of 574 LGBTQ applicants who will probably be at the poll subsequent month, in keeping with a brand new file by way of Victory Fund, a gaggle that trains, helps and advocates for LGBTQ applicants. Byers stated politicians who’re transgender are noticed as novelties, and that’s one thing she hopes to modify.

“It is part of who we’re. It is a part of our identification, however it isn’t the one factor. There may be such a lot of different issues we’re enthusiastic about as neatly,” she stated. “It is only a subject of normalizing that sufficient that it is not a factor, and … it is only a subject of what are we able to do to serve the communities that elected us?”

Educator of the Yr honoree Stephanie Byers accepts her award on the GLSEN 2018 Recognize Awards at Cipriani 42nd Side road in New York on Might 21, 2018.Dia Dipasupil / Getty Pictures for GLSEN document

The candidate, who grew up in neighboring Oklahoma, is a spouse, father or mother of 2 grownup sons and a grandparent of 9 youngsters. She’s a member of the Local American Chickasaw Country and has deep roots within the operating category. She stated her father, an established U.S. Postal Carrier employee, and her mom, who served as nationwide vp to the American Postal Employees Union Auxiliary, confirmed her the struggles that working-class households face.

“I am a father or mother, I am the grandparent, and I do know the demanding situations that households face right now,” Byers stated, “and that’s the reason who I wish to be a voice for — for the ones households that want any individual who stands up for them.”

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