Seventeen-year-old Tavarus Lafever, a transgender male, had a message Friday for lawmakers at the Kansas statehouse.
“We go to the restroom for the same reason everyone else does,” said Lafever, of Wichita. “Let us pee in peace.”
LGBT advocates held a protest Friday on the steps of the Capitol against a transgender bathroom bill introduced in the Legislature last month. It would require transgender students at Kansas public schools and state universities to use restrooms that match their gender at birth.
Protesters waved signs that read “Flush the bathroom bill” and “No hate in my state.”
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Lafever said he has identified as male since he was 14. Transgender youths already must deal with bullying, he said, and the bill would only increase harassment.
“I just want them to leave us alone,” Lafever said about lawmakers.
Tom Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas, the LGBT advocacy group that organized the protest, recounted that when he was a sophomore in high school in the 1970s, he was beaten and stabbed in the bathroom. He had thought such times were behind us, he said.
“I felt like we had come a long way until a month ago, when House Bill 2737 was introduced,” Witt said.
The bill would allow students “who encounter a person of the opposite sex” in restroom or locker facilities to sue the school or college for $2,500, plus damages for emotional and physical harm. Sex is defined in the bill as “determined by a person’s chromosomes and is identified at birth by a person’s anatomy.”
“This bill has put a $2,500 bounty on the heads of every transgender child in the state of Kansas,” Witt said.
Rep. John Carmichael, a Wichita Democrat, told protesters that the bill denigrates transgender people and plays on groundless fears. Some politicians see an advantage in that, he said.
“They want to trample on other people’s rights for their own political benefit,” Carmichael said.
Identical bills were introduced in the House and Senate last month before lawmakers left for a monthlong spring recess. The measures have seen no action since the Legislature reconvened Wednesday.
Supporters of the proposal say it’s needed to protect students’ privacy and safety. Allowing students of different sexes to use restrooms and locker rooms could cause “embarrassment, shame and psychological injury to students,” according to the bill.
“I think any child or young adult has a right to have their privacy protected when they’re in various stages of undress,” Sen Mary Pilcher-Cook, a Shawnee Republican, said earlier.
The LGBT protest came a day after evangelist Franklin Graham, the son of Billy Graham, held a rally attended by several thousand on the Capitol lawn as part of his Decision America Tour 2016 of the state capitals. He urged the crowd to bring God back to politics.
Graham lauded his home state of North Carolina for passing a law that requires transgender people to use public restrooms that correspond to their sex at birth. A man “pretending to be a woman has no business in a women’s bathroom or girl’s locker room,” he said.
Earlier this month, about 30 Johnson County high school students held a protest against the bathroom bill outside the Capitol.