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The first transgender lawmaker in Kansas, Stephanie Byers, will not seek a second term

Rep. Stephanie Byers, Kansas
Stephanie Byers
Rep. Stephanie Byers, a Wichita Democrat, is the first transgender lawmaker to serve in the Kansas Statehouse.

Byers withdrew her filing to run for reelection Friday.

The first openly transgender lawmaker in Kansas will not seek another term in the Kansas House.

Rep. Stephanie Byers, a Wichita Democrat, is also the first transgender Native American woman elected to a state legislature, and one of few Native Americans in the Kansas House or Senate.

The Kansas Secretary of State’s Office said on Friday that Byers has withdrawn as a candidate for Kansas House of Representatives District 86.

Byers didn’t immediately respond to requests for an interview, but tweeted that she was stepping down to focusing on family.

“My wife and I have aging parents with major health issues and we are placing them first. Today I am withdrawing my bid for re-election so we can focus on their needs,” the tweet read. “It has been an honor to serve the people of KS House 86, and the indigenous and LGBTQI of all KS.”

She spoke to KCUR last month about this year’s session, during which lawmakers debated multiple bills that targeted LGBTQ people.

“This (session) has been tough,” she told Nomin Ujiyediin. “We knew going in that we were going to see legislation that was going to attack the trans community. It was accompanied by hateful comments on social media. Hateful emails.”

Byers said many people had stepped forward to voice their support for her, but “there’s an emotional exhaustion that comes from having those repeated attacks over and over again.”

Byers, a retired teacher, also opposed the Republican-controlled Legislature’s stance on key education issues.

That includes bills described by Republicans as parental rights legislation designed to help parents challenge curriculum and library books that they disapprove of.

Byers also opposed the attempt to bar transgender girls and women from playing on girls’ and women’s sports teams at public schools.

Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly used her veto to block both from becoming law and lawmakers failed to override her.

Byers said teachers face an increasingly difficult work environment.

“It’s not just if someone’s going to come in and you know bring a firearm,” she said. “Now it’s also someone’s going to come in and take my textbooks out of my classroom and tell me I can’t teach that anymore.”

“Those types of things, it just adds stress onto stress,” she said. “When you take a 10,000 foot view, it really looks like an intentional undermining and destabilizing of American public education.”

Democrat Silas Miller and Republican Rick Lindsey have filed to run for Byers’ seat.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen reports on consumer health for the Kansas News Service. You can follow her on Twitter @celia_LJ or email her at celia (at) kcur (dot) org.

The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy.

Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished by news media at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.

I'm the creator of the environmental podcast Up From Dust. I write about how the world is transforming around us, from topsoil loss and invasive species to climate change. My goal is to explain why these stories matter to Kansas, and to report on the farmers, ranchers, scientists and other engaged people working to make Kansas more resilient. Email me at celia@kcur.org.
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