KS lawmakers may override veto of gender-affirming care ban. That worries these JoCo parents, teachers.

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When Kristen Satterwhite’s child was 4 years old, she had some questions for her pediatrician about signs of gender nonconformity she’d noticed for the past year.

“We were told that with kids like this, once they start school, they’re usually bullied enough that the behaviors stop,” she said.

The signs, it turns out, were not “behaviors” but an integral part of her child’s identity, she said. And laws that block gender-affirming medical care, like the one some Kansas lawmakers are attempting to enact this year, won’t change that.

“If this bill passes, it doesn’t mean that my kid’s not transgender anymore,” Satterwhite said.

She was referring to SB 233, which passed both chambers of the Kansas Legislature and was vetoed by Gov. Laura Kelly earlier this year. Supporters of the bill plan to attempt to override it when they come back for a veto override session that begins Monday.

The bill would also enact the following:

  • Prohibit state employees who work with children from advocating for gender-affirming care
  • Restrict the use of state funds for gender-affirming care
  • Put healthcare providers at risk for losing their licenses if they violate the law

If the bill becomes law, then Kansas will join about two dozen other states with such bans.

Satterwhite and four others sat down with reporters earlier this month to discuss their experiences and how a ban might affect them and their families.

The group also included a Christian minister with a transgender daughter, a transgender special education teacher, a non-binary psychologist and a substitute teacher. The meeting was arranged by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Some, like Satterwhite, said they feared for the future of their transgender family members.

Aaron Roberts, pastor at Colonial Church in Prairie Village, spoke of his daughter, who joined his family after spending time in the foster care system.

“For many years the only constant in her life were social workers,” who helped her get the healthcare she needed as a transgender child, Roberts said.

That support has helped her become a successful adult, a top business school student at her university and a soon-to-be graduate, he said.

“This bill is cruel,” he said. “If it had not been for the intervention, the blessing, of those social workers, my daughter could not have grown up into the incredible young woman she is today, and the world would be less for it. Kansas certainly would be less for it. That’s the effect of legislation like this.”

Others in the group had both professional and personal concerns about the bill.

Riley Long, a special education teacher at Blue Valley West High, said he was taught as a teacher to uplift students and “make them know that I will support them 100% no matter who they are. This bill makes it seem like it’s only OK to listen to my cisgender students and that my transgender students are automatically incorrect.”

Long remembered being labeled a tomboy and feeling uncomfortable in the female body he developed before he took the step of medically transitioning. “We will always exist no matter what bills do and do not pass,” he said. “Passing SB 233 will show trans kids they do not belong in our community and no one is going to help them.”

Candice Moran, who uses the they/them/theirs pronouns, said that as the mother of a non-binary child who is also non-binary, the bill could impact every aspect of their lives.

Healthcare providers are being bullied and threatened and having their ethics challenged by such laws, they said.

It is causing some to question whether they can stay in Kansas if the bill passes, they added.

“Folks who have the resources have already been fleeing the state,” Moran said, from fear that they can no longer practice their professions and fear for their minor transgender children.

Training for health professionals also could suffer by banning the teaching of best practices for gender care at state institutions. Moran said that’s already been happening in other states with limitations on clinical experience.

Teacher training may be impacted, too, said Hayley Spellman of Shawnee.

“It’s hard being a young teacher,” said Spellman, who taught in Kansas City, Kansas, and now substitute teaches in the Shawnee Mission School District. “We’re losing our teachers already, and this is making it so much harder for teachers to want to be in the classroom.”

Spellman also criticized the bill’s wording as overly broad and perhaps unconstitutional.

All said the bill will not stop anyone from being transgender and it is likely to be harmful because transgender children now hear people directing hate their way as they discuss it.

Satterwhite said she’s grateful for the veto but is waiting to see what comes next, as she helps her child process the negative social media and news stories about trans care.

“We just got here a couple of years ago (from Texas),” she said. “We’re really happy here,” she said, adding that the schools have been a trusted part of that. “If the bill were to pass, we’re kind of stuck figuring out what we want to do. My husband loves his job. My kids have got great friends. We don’t want to leave — but also we might.

“But if everybody leaves, then who’s left to continue the fight and keep advocating for the next generation?”

Other statehouse coverage: Want more young Kansans to run for office? A coming pay raise in the Statehouse might help

About the author

Roxie Hammill
Roxie Hammill

Roxie Hammill is a freelance journalist who reports frequently for the Post and other Kansas City area publications. You can reach her at roxieham@gmail.com.