Politics & Government

Transgender supporters rally in Topeka to protest bathroom bill

2016: Bathroom bill protest

Opponents rally at the Kansas Capitol against a bill to require transgender students to use the bathroom corresponding to their gender at birth. Video by Dion Lefler / April 29, 2016
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Opponents rally at the Kansas Capitol against a bill to require transgender students to use the bathroom corresponding to their gender at birth. Video by Dion Lefler / April 29, 2016

TOPEKA — About 100 transgender individuals and their supporters rallied on the Capitol steps Friday to protest a bill that would require Kansas students to use restrooms and locker rooms matching their gender at birth.

Thomas Witt, director of Equality Kansas, told the crowd that he was beaten and stabbed in a bathroom as a gay high school student and that the bathroom bill, HB 2737, would put a target on every transgender student in a Kansas public school, community college or university.

“You were all seventh- and eight-graders and ninth-graders once. You know how brutal those kids can be to each other,” Witt said. “If this bill passes and it gets signed by that man whose office is right behind us (Gov. Sam Brownback), the blood will be on his hands and on the hands of every legislator who votes in favor of this horrible nightmare of legislation.”

What’s worse, the bill allows students to sue their school for $2,500 if they encounter a transgender schoolmate in the restroom or locker room, Witt said.

“This is $2,500 per head provocation,” he said.

Tavarus LaFever, a Wichita student who is planning to go to college in the fall, began transitioning from female to male at age 14. LaFever recounted using the women’s bathroom on one occasion and having a little girl scream: “Mommy, there’s a boy in here.”

LaFever said it’s scary for a transgender person to use either restroom and it shouldn’t have to be that way.

“The only problem you should have in a bathroom is if you’re constipated,” LaFever said.

Aaron Price of Wichita, the father of a young transgender daughter, said he came to speak at the rally because he was angry and aggravated and he thinks it’s time to push back at legislators who support the bathroom bill.

Opponents rally at the Kansas Capitol against a bill to require transgender students to use the bathroom corresponding to their gender at birth. Video by Dion Lefler / April 29, 2016

“I mean, look, does she really look like she’s a threat to you?” he said of his child. “I mean, come on, what’s the worst she’s gonna do, pee on your foot?”

Friday’s rally took place 24 hours after evangelist Franklin Graham stood on the same Capitol steps and had 4,500 Christian conservatives cheering loudly in favor of the bathroom bill.

About 40 legislators and other state officials stood with Graham on Thursday.

On Friday, only one, Rep. John Carmichael, D-Wichita, stood with the transgender people.

Carmichael, heterosexual, married and a lawyer, said he stood up against the bathroom bill because he sees it as a violation of civil rights.

“Do you realize what some of these Neanderthals in this (Capitol) building think?” he said. “They think that child molesters and perverts masquerade as women or men just so they can walk into bathrooms. What world do they live in?”

He said any legislator who proposed a bill similarly restricting black people would rightly be “run out on a rail,” even if they claimed integrated bathrooms violate their religious beliefs, as some do in the defense of the bathroom bill.

“Unfortunately, it’s still somehow permissible in this state – and unfortunately in this country – to discriminate against people because they may be transgender,” Carmichael said. “That is absolutely wrong. It’s wrong under my religion. It’s wrong under every religion that I know of. But we have people who want to persist in preying on the fears of others for political advantage.”

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