Kansas lawmakers voted Wednesday to override Gov. Laura Kelly’s third veto in as many years on a law banning transgender athletes from girls’ and women’s sports teams.
The ban, which critics are calling an attack on transgender students’ rights, will go into effect this summer.
The text of the new law is pretty vague in terms of enforcement, so there’s a lot we don’t know yet — including how officials will determine whether a student athlete is transgender.
The law tasks the Kansas State High School Activities Association (KSHSAA) — a group responsible for administrating competition among Kansas high schools in both athletic and non-athletic activities — with establishing the specific enforcement guidelines that schools will need to implement.
Will the state insist on inspecting students’ genitalia?
Critics have suggested the ban’s vague language could leave room for invasive inspections of student athletes. It’s a critique of the bill that has been thrown around since it began gaining traction in 2021, but state officials have said genital inspections will play no role in the policy.
Kansas’ new law contains no such provision.
Jeremy Holaday, a spokesman for KSHSAA, said that while no details of the enforcement plan have been discussed yet, invasive medical inspections are not likely.
“We don’t anticipate something like that taking place,” he said. “I don’t think that’s ever been suggested, from what I know, in Kansas with this bill.”
Rep. Barb Wasinger, a Hays Republican and supporter of the ban, told The Star Thursday that the ban does not mandate or allow for genital inspection of children.
“Currently you have to supply a birth certificate to even go to school,” Wasinger said.
On Thursday afternoon Kansas House Speaker Dan Hawkins issued a statement to add even more clarity: “There’s absolutely no language or intent in the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act to require any type of genitalia inspection and that will not be the outcome of the bill.”
However, critics have pointed specifically to the bill’s extension to students younger than high school age, which are not governed by KSHAA.
“It is my sincere hope that the rules and regulations will prevent students from being subjected to the proponents wishes, as they outlined on the House floor, which would require medical examinations of gentalia of student athletes,” Rep. Brandon Woodard, a Leawood Democrat and the first openly gay man elected to the state House. “Bill text aside, the representatives pushing for this bill stated that medical examinations will occur for those without birth certificates.”
Woodard referenced an exchange on the House floor with Wasinger. He asked her how the sex at birth would be proved and she suggested a birth certificate or, in its absence, “a medical examination by their doctor.”
“You have to have a sports physical before you play and so I assume that the physicians would know,” Wasinger said.
Who decides how to enforce Kansas’ transgender athlete ban?
The KSHSAA will “adopt rules and regulations for its member schools to implement the provisions” of the ban.
Holaday, the spokesman, told The Star that the agency is meeting with several advisory groups this month to discuss how to approach these guidelines.
“We want to have thorough discussions with our sports medicine advisory team and our board of directors before we have any sort of official details or direction for our member schools,” he said.
“We do anticipate both of those groups will be in our office in the next couple of weeks to discuss this at length and make sure we’re heading in the right direction.”
Public colleges and universities are also subject to the law but can decide their own enforcement standards.
Officials with the Shawnee Mission, Blue Valley, Olathe, Gardner Edgerton and De Soto school districts did not immediately return The Star’s request for comment.
How have other states handled transgender athlete bans?
Kansas is now the 20th state to have some type of ban on transgender athletes competing in school sports. The state joins 11 others with bans that apply to students of all ages, from kindergarten through college.
Transgender athlete bans are temporarily on hold in Idaho, Indiana, Utah and West Virginia due to court orders. Tennessee’s ban requires schools that do not comply to lose state funding.
Some states, including those that do not have bans on transgender athletes, include space for genital inspections on forms used for student athletes’ physical exams. Some states, like Oklahoma and Michigan, specify that these exams are for “males only.”
‘Who are they making these rules for?’
Adam Kellogg, a transgender activist and University of Kansas student who has testified in the statehouse against anti-trans legislation, said that the ban opens children who are not transgender to greater scrutiny.
“I think this is going to hurt more cisgender kids than anyone,” he told The Star, referring to students whose gender identity aligns with the sex they were assigned at birth. “They’re now subject to judgment for the way they dress, act and look. Tomboys are now going to be scrutinized for simply not being feminine enough.”
Kellogg added that he doesn’t know of any transgender athletes who will be impacted by the new law — indicating that the ban attempts to solve a nonexistent problem.
“Who are they making these rules for? No one. There had been no issue before,” he said. “It’s harmful rhetoric that only serves to tell trans kids they do not matter and are not welcome in Kansas.”
The Star’s Sarah Ritter contributed reporting.
Do you have more questions about LGBTQ issues in Kansas or Missouri? Ask the Service Journalism team at firstname.lastname@example.org.