Dear Governor Brownback,
I take abundant satisfaction in the fact that I am from Kansas. It is a state build from the blistered hands and on the backs of generations of blue-collar families. Those families pride themselves on Midwestern ethics and value the importance of the good-natured and courteous folks that make up the state's residence. There is no place kinder than Kansas. People still greet you with a “good morning” and a smile, phrases like “please and thank you” are still commonplace and most manners are still regarded with a certain level of respect.
There is a lot to be proud of regarding Kansas’s history. Yet, while we haven’t always had the best track record when it comes to being progressive, many important historical battles have been fought on our land. Amelia Earhart pushed the boundaries of womanhood, being both strong and independent at a time when it was strictly unpopular to do so. Hell, as far back as the Civil War, nearly 200 men in Lawrence, Kansas were murdered as neighboring slave state Missouri burned the city to the ground. However Kansas, a state build on the idea of love and equality, would not budge. Although Topeka started on the wrong side progression in the historic Brown vs. The Board of Education battle, which declared it unconstitutional for public schools to be separated into “white schools” and “black schools,” Kansas would ultimately been seen as one of the key moments in the end of segregation.
The state I love, that has served as a battlefield for countless social and political platforms, is standing at another crossroad in the war for equality. Once again, Kansas is positioned on the wrong side of change.
This is because you chose the path of fear and hate, rather than the road to knowledge and tolerance. However, this should probably come as no surprise from the state that fails to teach intercourse in sexual education class and refuses to acknowledge “evolution” in science class.
This leans to the understanding that under your watch, Mr. Brownback, Kansas has wilted into a damaged and unkempt state. Let’s not even focus on the catastrophic tax plan that you installed while sleeping with big business, which has left the states education, public service, and mental health departments crippled. Also, to save time, let’s ignore your endless attacks on women’s rights to control their own bodies. As deplorable as both those topics are, they’re simply the tip of your iceberg of hate.
Let’s not forget that you were the guy with the pen, frantically scribbling Executive Order 15-05, also known as the “Preservation and Protection of Religious Freedom” act, despite a ruling from the Supreme Court deeming that “same-sex” marriage was finally what it simply should have been all along: marriage.
The “Preservation and Protection of Religious Freedom” act wasn’t your first swing at the LGBT+ community in Kansas. Previously that year you flexed your governmental muscles, rescinding an 8-year old order protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender state workers from job discrimination.
So to summarize: as the rest of the country was finally embracing equality, you were calling the LGBT+ residents of your state second-class citizens.
Not stopping there, now you’ve put a bounty on the heads on the transgender community?
The Student Physical Privacy Act, ticked into SB513 and HB2737, would force all students of public schools and universities to use the bathrooms corresponding with their birth sex, not the gender they identify with. More shocking is that the bill would enforce a $2,500 reward for “those who file a successful report.”
There is a great deal of irony in a state that can’t properly fund education, but manages to find the currency to fuel hate, isn’t there?
The bill is aimed to “maintain order and dignity in the restroom, locker rooms, showers, and other facilities where students may be in various states of undress in the presence of other students.”
All right, so you’re not excited to be naked in front of a transgender kid. You’ve made that clear. However, there are several flaws in your system. Take Republican Senator Mary Pilcher-Cook’s point for example: “Parents have reached out afraid for their children’s safety and they do not want attention for fear of being called a bigot, this legislation ensures accommodations, while still protecting everyone’s privacy rights.”
So then, what about the fear and the safety of the transgender individuals being forced into a restroom that they don’t identify with? We’re honestly setting up potential situation where a post-operation “her” could be forced into a shower with a collection of male students.
But let’s not get idealistic. That is a case of what if. Let’s just stick to cases where a birth sex individual was forced to use their birth sex facility.
In 2010, Cal Carpenter, a birth male identifying female used the “government assigned” facility. However, someone shoved her into a bathroom stall, and carved the word “IT” into her chest. I challenge you, Governor Brownback, to show me just one example of an individual pretending to be transgender just to assault a person of the opposite sex in a bathroom. The simple fact is, you will not be able to do this because there is not a single instance of this happening. In the United States, 22 transgender individuals were killed in 2015 alone, the highest total ever record, with violence growing every year. However, instead of protecting the rights of these people, we’re choosing to alienate and demonize them, fueling the backlash and funding both the violence and the polarizing lack of acceptance that has sent gay and transgender suicides through the roof.
But we’re “still protecting everyone’s privacy rights,” right Senator Pilcher-Cook?
Nah, not so much.
Ultimately, this is what we should be doing instead:
Educate: With gender and sexual repression being the norm in the Kansas Classroom, the state is missing a prime opportunity to educate the next generation to tolerate and embrace differences rather than fear and spotlight them. Metaphorically speaking, Kansas is handing their university students a weapon of bigotry in the form of a $2,500 reward for intolerance, rather than reintegrating a fundamentally basic level of reality in the world that quite frankly is the glue that holds everything together; people might be different than you, fucking deal with it.
Secondly, (and possible more importantly) Stop sexualizing everything:
There is a reason why we are, as a culture, struggling with rape, hyper-sexualization, and misogynistic tendencies: we’re not properly educating that any of these things are problems.
Explain to me this: WHY exactly is it so important that a transgender student, born male, but identifying female, should be forced to use the “male restroom”? Why is there an overwhelming assumption that natural birth women in that restroom will feel uncomfortable with the fact that a transgender woman, who was once a natural born male, would use their facilities? This is because of the assumption that a natural born male (transgender or otherwise) is implied to have uncontrolled sexual desires for those who belong in the natural born “women’s restroom.”
In reality, said transgender person just wants to pee.
It is legitimately possible for a man and a woman, (in literally any form: a man who’s gay, a man who’s straight, a woman who is straight, a post-operation woman, etc.) to share a bathroom facility without incident. The room is not responsible for the incident.
No really, just think about that for a moment.
All of these problems could be solved if we simply stopped thinking of people as a sexual means to our own desire. Say it with me Mr.Brownback: “PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY.”
That situation only becomes an incident the second that one individual forces their sexual wishes on a second individual. That isn’t about a “male” vs. “female” room. It isn’t about what sexuality you are or what sex you identify as. Nope, that comes down to rape vs. respect.
Let me break it down for you:
If a straight/gay/transgender man/woman/non-binary person sexualizes another straight/gay/transgender man/woman/non-binary person in the men’s/women’s/unisex restroom, that’s an invasion of privacy. There is no room you can build to prevent that. Sexual assault is still sexual assault. Rape is still rape. These crimes are still...crimes.
So, how do you install such thoughts? You use proper education and eliminate censorship and free passes of hatefulness. Please back funding to teach tolerance. I challenges you to open your mind and your heart to the possibility that education, not restriction, is the guide to a charitable Kansas. I know that that path leads back to the home that I love and miss.
Make us proud Mr. Brownback. Repeal SB513 and HB2737.
Editor in Chief of Punk Out
Editor's Note: If you would like to contact Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas to let him know that you support LGBT+ equality and that Kansas should as well, you can find his contact information here.
Editor's Note: The views and opinions expressed on our Artist Corner and Blog are exclusively of the author and do not reflect the views and opinions of Punk Out as an organization.