Note: The Lawrence Times runs opinion columns and letters to the Times written by community members with varying perspectives on local issues. These pieces do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Times staff.
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There are several ways I identify myself. By my name, by my nickname, as a son, a boyfriend, an advocate, a student. I go to the doctor, I have a therapist, I have to get my hair cut sometimes (at New Growth and Vine Salon). Sometimes I shop at Target, other times I go to Checkers and sometimes I venture over to the Merc. I try to get downtown as much as possible. I like to eat at Zen Zero and I like all the local coffee shops (I love La Prima Tazza and Grounded lately).
You can often find my girlfriend and me picnicking at South Park or walking our dog at the park by the East Lawrence Rec Center. I used to rent in town, I’ve owned a home in town. I pay my taxes here. I work for a local nonprofit. I drive around in my car with bumper stickers from the Raven and Wonder Fair.
I have been a lifelong Kansas resident. I grew up in Topeka and I left once or twice for a few semesters of college before returning to the state to make a home of five years in Lawrence. Which, for a 25-year-old, is a good portion of my adult life. I ended up getting my degree in this state, purchasing my first home in this state, meeting the person I would marry in this state. This year, I have made the decision to leave.
There’s been a variety of reasons why, but a big reason is another way I identify myself — as a transgender man.
Our state legislature has made it very clear how they feel about people like me, especially lately. To these representatives, I am not a valuable enough member of our community to self-determine my identity. To these representatives, I am a threat to biology, religion, children, and women. To these representatives, my work and social membership to the community that I grew up in and made a life in is not valuable. To these representatives, my “American Dream” stops at their opinions about a community I would hazard a guess they have never met or interacted with.
I’m lucky enough to know who I am. I am privileged enough to have the support of my community, my family, my friends, and my workplace. I don’t need the backing of the state legislature to tell me what kind of person I am. I, like many other transgender Kansans, am an integral part of my community without their support.
I do and always will love Kansas, especially Lawrence — but until the people making the laws make room for people like me and prioritize the safety and self-determination of all of their constituents, I will love my state from afar.
— Ley Schneider (he/him), from Lawrence
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