WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – A retired music teacher in Wichita will become the first openly transgender member of the Kansas Legislature.
“It’s a statement on the humanity,” said Kansas legislator-elect Stephanie Byers. “The fact that we’ve grown to the point where what we perceive as differences among us are no longer becoming barriers.”
Stephanie Byers will join the ranks of other transgender people who have served in legislatures in other states, including four who currently hold such office.
“For a transgender person to be elected in the state of Kansas, it opens the doors of possibilities for transgender people all across the United States to become more involved in the civic opportunities that are presented to them,” said Byers.
With all Kansas election precincts reporting to the Kansas Secretary of State’s Office as of Wednesday morning, the Democrat candidate held 54% of the votes for District 86 of Kansas Congress. Her GOP competitor Cyndi Howerton had 46%, comparatively.
“We have so many things to celebrate right now because we have moved the needle in Kansas,” said Equality Kansas Board of Directors Chair Kelli Wilks. “We have seen advances in inequality, and we need to remember that even when it doesn’t necessarily feel that way.”
Byers was teaching band and orchestra at Wichita High School North when, in August 2014, she publicly, as she put it, “presented as my authentic self” to students and staff. She called the support in the building incredible.
In 2018, she was named the Educator of the Year by GLSEN, an organization that creates safe schools for LGBTQ youth.
Byers district previously backed President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly.
“If you’ve wondered if you could run for office and thought that perhaps your identity is something that would get in the way, we have ways that we can prove now that it’s not just about identity it’s just about being part of the community,” said Byers. “It’s another step in towards our inclusion within the greater society of the United States.”
Byers is eager to get to work in Topeka starting in January, but for now, she said she will be spending the next several weeks and months working on a plan to expand Medicaid to help take care of Kansans.
There are currently four openly transgender people serving in state Legislatures: Danica Roem in Virginia, Lisa Bunker and Gerri Cannon in New Hampshire, and Brianna Titone in Colorado.