Three weeks after that dialog, she began campaigning as a Democrat for the open state consultant seat within the district the place she lives in Wichita. Now, Byers may turn into the primary overtly transgender particular person elected to the state legislature in Kansas.
Operating unopposed, Byers gained Tuesday’s Democratic major and can transfer on to the November poll within the longtime left-leaning district, the place she’ll face off with Republican candidate Cyndi Howerton.
If she wins, she would be part of not less than 4 overtly transgender lawmakers serving in different states, together with Danica Roem of Virginia who turned the primary when she gained her seat in November 2017; Gerri Cannon and Lisa Bunker, who both won seats in New Hampshire the next yr; and Brianna Titone who flipped a previously Republican district in Colorado to win her seat within the State Home.
Byers, a retired music instructor, got here out as a transgender lady about six years in the past, whereas she was nonetheless instructing highschool college students to play music.
“For me, being transgender is simply one other facet of who I’m,” Byers told KAKE. “I’m a member of the Chickasaw nation. I journey a bike. I’m a musician.”
She had been instructing at Wichita North Excessive College, the most important public highschool within the state, for greater than twenty years when she determined to transition. With the college and 1000’s of fogeys watching her, Byers mentioned she was shocked by how a lot assist and the way little opposition she acquired.
Her principal, Sherman Padgett, introduced Byers’s transition at a workers assembly earlier than the 2014 college yr.
“He introduced who I used to be and who I’d be any further, and the response was overwhelming from my colleagues,” Byers told the Wichita Eagle. “Folks that I’ve by no means spoken to on this constructing got here up and wrapped their arms round me to inform me how a lot they look after me and love me and had been happy with me. It was very, very affirming.”
In 2018, she was named instructor of the yr by the Homosexual, Lesbian & Straight Training Community (GLSEN) for her 28-year profession as a band and orchestra director. She retired from instructing in 2019.
During the last 4 years, Byers has additionally campaigned towards so-called “rest room payments” that may ban transgender folks from utilizing the restroom that aligns with their gender identification somewhat than the intercourse they had been assigned at beginning.
She informed Lesieur that she was impressed to oppose the invoice by an expertise she had as a toddler, when she was touring to go to a Native American reservation on trip along with her father. Her household, who’re from Oklahoma, belong to the Chickasaw Nation.
They stopped to make use of the restroom at a gasoline station, however the proprietor refused to allow them to after he came upon they had been Native American.
“I keep in mind that,” she mentioned. “I do know what it feels prefer to have somebody take a look at you, and due to who they see, say, ‘No, you may’t do that.’”
Though Byers’s activism round LGBTQ points has influenced her political profession, she has campaigned for the seat, which is open as a result of longtime Rep. Jim Ward (D) determined to make a run for the state senate, primarily by advocating to rising funding for schooling and increasing Medicaid.
“Probably the most treasured useful resource we have now are youngsters and because the state it’s our duty to assist these youngsters be one of the best adults they might presumably be and provides them each alternative,” she told Lesieur. “Having lecturers in workplace might help make that come by.”
Nonetheless, Byers has mentioned she hopes to guide by instance in order that different individuals who determine as a part of the LGBTQ neighborhood or as members of different marginalized teams will really feel empowered to hunt public workplace.
“If a state like Kansas can elect a trans lady to the Home of Representatives, does that not give validation to trans folks everywhere?” she mentioned on the podcast. “Within the technique of doing this we’re opening doorways for increasingly more folks in order that these individuals who really feel marginalized in society can take steps to be a part of society and never simply be on the surface wanting in.”