Kansas' First Transgender Lawmaker Not Seeking Reelection

by John Hanna

Associated Press

Saturday June 11, 2022
Originally published on June 11, 2022

Kansas state Rep. Stephanie Byers, left, D-Wichita, fills out paperwork for Bryan Caskey, state elections director, to withdraw as a candidate for reelection.
Kansas state Rep. Stephanie Byers, left, D-Wichita, fills out paperwork for Bryan Caskey, state elections director, to withdraw as a candidate for reelection.  (Source:AP Photo/John Hanna)

Kansas' first transgender state legislator is not seeking reelection, saying Friday that she is moving to Texas so that she can help care for her wife's aging parents.

Democratic state Rep. Stephanie Byers, of Wichita, was elected in 2020 and quickly became a leading opponent of Republican proposals to ban transgender athletes from girls' and women's school and college sports. Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly vetoed such GOP proposals this year and last year.

Byers also was in a media spotlight in April when another Wichita-area lawmaker, Republican state Rep. Cheryl Helmer, complained in an email to a college student about the "transgender female who is now in our restrooms in the Capitol."

Byers filed paperwork Friday with the Kansas secretary of state's office to withdraw as a candidate in her Democratic-leaning district. She said her decision wasn't influenced by Helmer's comments or any legislative debates.

"If anything, if I see a fire, I run into it," Byers told reporters. "For anybody who thinks that I'm running from a fight, I'm moving to Texas."

Texas has a law on transgender athletes, and GOP Gov. Greg Abbott has ordered the state welfare agency to investigate reports of gender-confirming care for children as abuse. Byers is moving to San Antonio and said she may eventually run for elected office there.

Byers is a 59-year-old retired high school music teacher and band director. She has served on two education committees and another that dealt with water issues.

Meanwhile, a transgender woman, Jaelynn Abegg, is running as a Democrat in a Republican-leaning state House district in Wichita. Abegg is a 37-year-old audio producer, musician and singer-songwriter, and she called Byers "an incredibly strong advocate" for transgender youth.

"She's done an incredible amount of work and an incredible amount of fighting," Abegg said of Byers.

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