Ex-teacher becomes Kansas’ first transgender state lawmaker

November 4, 2020 GMT

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A former Wichita band teacher has been elected to serve as the first transgender lawmaker in Kansas.

Democrat Stephanie Byers defeated Republican Cyndi Howerton in Tuesday’s election for the Kansas 86th District, a Democratic-leaning district that includes parts of Wichita. Unofficial results showed Byers with 54.4% of the vote to Howerton’s 45.6%.

Byers, a retired band teacher at Wichita North High School, said throughout her campaign that being transgender is only part of her identity and she plans to focus on other issues, such as health care.

“We’ve done something in Kansas most people thought would never happen, and we did it with really no push-back, by just focusing on the issues,” Byers told The Wichita Eagle Tuesday evening.

But Byers acknowledged her election would give hope to the transgender community, particularly in deeply conservative Kansas.

“It helps those people who are transgender to reinforce that they are people who matter, they are people who are important and they’re people who can be successful in their lives,” she said.

Before Tuesday’s election, there were four other transgender lawmakers in state legislatures in the U.S.