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Anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and laws hurt your Kansas neighbors. We can build a more welcoming state. (Column) – The Lawrence Times

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Note: The Lawrence Times runs opinion columns written by community members with diverse perspectives on local issues. From time to time, we also collect columns from other nearby news organizations. These pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Times staff.

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Even though data shows that a majority of the country supports LGBTQ+ people and their rights, hostility and violence against the community is on the rise. The past two years have been the deadliest for transgender people in recent history, largely due to the rapidly increasing number of legislative attacks against trans people’s rights and the resurgence of degrading and harmful anti-trans rhetoric in our community.

Kansas is no exception.

In Kansas, this anti-trans sentiment showed up everywhere: at school board meetings, in local government, in political campaigns, and in the state legislature. The most recent example of this is Senate Bill 12, a discriminatory bill introduced in the Kansas Senate that would make it a crime to provide gender-affirming medical care to trans people under the age of 21. The bill not only uses offensive and inaccurate terminology, but also attempts to ban medically necessary, safe, effective, and evidence-based medical care. Such care is recommended and supported by countless medical and mental health professionals, including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

Kansas is home to more than 92,000 LGBTQ+ people, including approximately 14,400 trans people. The issues affecting the LGBTQ+ community affect our Kansas community as a whole, and we must not ignore that fact. This is especially important to keep in mind as the 2023 legislative session begins and Kansan’s transgenders are in the crosshairs of ill-informed state representatives trying to score political points.

Being informed and prepared to take action in support of LGBTQ+ Kansans is critical, not only as they face an onslaught of attacks in the political arena, but also because they experience disproportionately high rates of discrimination statewide. The ACLU of Kansas hears from countless LGBTQ+ Kansas residents experiencing discrimination in their jobs, schools, medical offices, and local communities.

In fact, the ACLU of Kansas recently conducted a survey of nearly 100 LGBTQ+ Kansans and advocates to learn what challenges they’re facing and identify their unaddressed needs. The findings painted a picture of a state that has a lot of work to do before the community feels safe, accepted and respected.

Unsurprisingly, 98.9% of these Kansasians said they feared anti-LGBTQ+ laws passed by the Kansas Legislature. More than half (51%) of LGBTQ+ Kansans reported experiencing discrimination based on their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, including job loss, denial of medical care, and dismissal from businesses. Additionally, nearly one-third (32.2%) of LGBTQ+ Kansans said they felt insecure and unsupported in their local communities.

While these results may be disheartening, this doesn’t have to be the reality. In fact, most Kansans want to protect LGBTQ+ people. A clear majority, 67%, of Kansans support LGBTQ+ discrimination protections.

This fact does not surprise me. As a lifelong Kansan, I know our state’s sense of community and generosity. But as an openly queer and trans person, I also know the challenges LGBTQ+ people face living here.

This is why I am working with the ACLU of Kansas to enforce, strengthen and expand the legal protections of LGBTQ+ Kansans. As part of this work, the ACLU has launched an LGBTQ+ Advocacy Resource Hub on our website that will host various resources and information related to the civil rights of LGBTQ+ Kansans, including toolkits explaining their legal rights and how to get them. apply, as well as updates and notices related to LGBTQ+ issues in the Kansas Legislature. Throughout 2023, new materials will be added to the hub, and the ACLU will continue to expand resources at this location over the next several years.

I believe we can make Kansas a welcoming and accepting state where LGBTQ+ people can live authentically and thrive. But LGBTQ+ Kansas people can’t do it alone. We need you in our corner, to join the fight. We need people’s power, political commitment and committed communities to act with love. If you’re ready to get involved, you can sign up to become a Kansas ACLU activist and join the Kansan LGBTQ+ civil rights struggle here.

— DC Hiegert is an attorney and LGBTQ+ fellow of the Skadden Foundation at the ACLU of Kansas, where they work to protect and enforce the civil rights of Kansas’ LGBTQ+ citizens.

Through its opinion section, the Kansas Reflector works to amplify the voices of people who are influenced by public policy or excluded from public debate. Find information, including how to submit your comment, here. Find out how to submit your comment to The Lawrence Times here.

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