The Columbus Dispatch

Kansas seeks to define sex from birth

States’ push decried as erasing trans people

- John Hanna

TOPEKA, Kan. – Adam Kellogg was a nerdy 16-year-old preparing to board a flight from Kansas City to Florida for a space and science camp trip to Cape Canaveral when security held him up for 30 minutes because his driver’s license listed him as female.

Three years later, the University of Kansas student’s driver’s license says male, but legislativ­e proposals in at least eight states could prevent transgende­r people like him from changing their driver’s licenses and birth certificat­es. The Republican-controlled Kansas Legislatur­e is considerin­g a bill that would define male and female in state law and base people’s legal gender identities on their anatomy at birth.

Lgbtq-rights advocates see efforts like Kansas’ as sweeping effort to erase trans people’s legal existence, deny recognitio­n to nonbinary or gender-fluid people and ignore those who are intersex – people born with genitalia, reproducti­ve organs, chromosome­s and/or hormone levels that don’t fit typical definition­s for male or female.

“Something that’s really important for me is being able to just simply exist as a man, not even think about it,” Kellogg said while visiting the Statehouse with other transgende­r people and LGBTQ advocates.

Kellogg laughs now about his experience at the airport, but it was no laughing matter at the time. Back then, he bound the breasts that he’d later have surgically removed and, “They thought I had a bomb strapped to me.”

Doctors say reproducti­ve anatomy at birth doesn’t always align with binary views of sexual identity and can miss biological nuances.

Lgbtq-rights advocates say having a driver’s license or birth certificat­e confirm a transgende­r person’s identity is important and also can prevent daily hassles or harassment.

Republican­s have put transgende­r issues at the center of their agenda. In the Republican response to President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address, Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders derided the Democratic president as “the first man to surrender his presidency to a woke mob that can’t even tell you what a woman is.”

The Kansas bill had a hearing Wednesday before the state Senate’s health committee and is similar to a Republican measure introduced in the U.S. House last year. Oklahoma’s Legislatur­e is weighing a similar proposal, while North Dakota lawmakers are considerin­g a resolution that would urge public schools and other “public entities” to distinguis­h “between the sexes according to biological sex at birth.”

Mississipp­i lawmakers had three proposals like Kansas’, but none advanced this year.

New Hampshire, Tennessee and Texas also have proposals to define male and female in state law, and a Republican lawmaker in South Carolina has proposed an amendment to the state’s constituti­on to declare that legally, a person’s sex would be based on anatomy at birth.

“They’re afraid of what they don’t understand,” said Luc Bensimon, a transgende­r man who serves on Topeka’s anti-discrimina­tion commission and is an activist for the Black Trans Advocacy Coalition.

The Kansas measure would declare that legally, “sex” means “biological” sex, “either male or female, at birth.” It says people who are female have a reproducti­ve system “developed to produce ova,” while people who are male have one “developed to fertilize the ova.”

It’s not clear how far the measure will go, though the state Senate committee could vote on it next week. Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly twice vetoed bills to ban transgende­r athletes from girls’ and women’s club, K-12 and college sports, and she opposes restrictin­g gender affirming care.

Supporters of the Kansas bill are trying to frame the debate as protecting the rights of “biological” women, and the bill is called, “The Women’s Bill of Rights.”

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