Guest Commentary

We are transgender Republicans. The Kansas GOP is betraying its legacy of freedom

Jordan Evans (left) and Jennifer Williams
Jordan Evans (left) and Jennifer Williams Submitted photos

The Republican Party owes its very existence to the state of Kansas. While not the birthplace of the GOP, Kansas’ own founding inspired the founding of the party by Alvan Bovay and other abolitionists on March 20, 1854 in Ripon, Wisconsin, after the Democratic Party’s Stephen Douglas proposed the controversial, pro-slavery Kansas-Nebraska Act. Those first Republicans held beliefs rooted in the ideals of personal liberty, freedom and combating the suppression of a minority across our country.

Fast forward to today and the state of Kansas and the Republican Party once again find themselves playing a role in the a national debate determining the life, liberty, and prosperity of millions of Americans for years to come. Only this time, Republican leaders in Kansas are supporting the oppression of a minority, rather than fighting for the liberation of one. As Republicans who happen to be transgender, we have grave concerns over the Kansas Republican Party’s recent vote to “oppose all efforts to validate transgender identity” against their fellow Kansans and anyone else who is transgender.

To add insult to injury, the 180-member Kansas Republican state committee passed this misguided resolution by voice vote instead of putting their names on a piece of paper. That is an act of cowards, not leaders believing in a just cause.

This un-American and un-Republican resolution lies in stark contrast to the spirit of the Republican Party’s founders. By making this decision as a state committee, at the behest of a single special interest group, the committee’s members voted to hurt a community still working to overcome stigmatic stereotypes and past misunderstandings. As more transgender individuals, in Kansas and beyond, have begun to live more authentic lives and reintroduce themselves into their communities, they have been welcomed by millions of their fellow family members, friends, co-workers, neighbors and congregation members.

While some in our party have reached for the darkness of fear and vilified transgender Americans like us, the vast majority of Republicans and Americans have not done that. There are likely thousands of Kansans who are transgender, religious and Republican who have been hurt most by the Kansas GOP’s platform resolution, let alone their families, friends, co-workers, neighbors and congregation members.

Unfortunately, the Kansas GOP’s resolution not only attempts to invalidate the identities of transgender Kansans but works to deny them the ability to live fruitful lives. This resolution also creates the ugly conditions from which prejudice and discrimination flourish. Surely, each member of the state committee knew this when they voted.

Waging a campaign against even the most basic aspects of transgender Kansans’ access to health care, employment, housing and public accommodations puts these committee members —and now the entire Kansas Republican Party — behind the governments of many third-world countries in the affirmation of and lack of discrimination against transgender people. Is that something for any Kansan to be proud of?

The Kansas GOP’s recycling of discredited falsehoods and outdated policy positions of ideological medical professionals such as Paul McHugh only increases the likelihood of discrimination in employment, housing, medical care and public accommodations. Further, their action shows a lack of understanding of the current medical and psychological research regarding transgender people.

In their resolution, the Kansas GOP said that they “recognize the dignity of every human being.” However, these words ring untrue because intentionally advocating against the access to appropriate care and social acceptance of transgender Americans are not examples of love, dignity or compassion. They are examples of unnecessary destruction and willfully cruelty. The Republican Party is supposed to be a force for lifting people up, not pushing them further down America’s social ladder.

Kansans can read the resolution for themselves and recognize its parroting the same old falsehoods, fear-mongering and misleading information debunked years ago by medical and neurological researchers at Harvard, Yale, Stanford and other esteemed institutions in America.

To dismiss another person’s core identity as nothing more than a false political ideology robs those individuals of their basic humanity. The Kansas Republican Party is doing this very same thing under the guise of compassion, dignity and love. Now our fellow rank-and-file Republicans in Kansas must live with the actions of their party leaders.

They also need to ask themselves what message they’re comfortable with sending to not just the transgender population living within their state, but to the many of their friends and family members — particularly those who are Republicans themselves.

As transgender Americans who happen to be Republican, we ask all good Kansans of conscience to call upon the Kansas Republican Party to reverse its recent action which damages Kansas’ reputation as well as that of their own party. The Republican Party has never been a party of discrimination, but actions like this resolution by the Kansas GOP will turn our party of Lincoln into one.

The Kansas GOP must not continue trying to lead in subjugating a minority and running counter to the founding of the Grand Old Party and of a Free Kansas.

Jordan Evans is an elected library trustee in Massachusetts and is currently the only openly transgender Republican official in the U.S. Jennifer Williams is a Republican committeewoman in New Jersey and was the first openly transgender delegate to the Republican National Convention.