The Lawrence PRIDE parade and block party brought colorful celebration to downtown Lawrence Saturday, but they also included messages of support and resistance for transgender and gender-nonconforming folks who have been targeted by legislation this year in Kansas and beyond.
Kansas’ Senate Bill 180 goes into effect July 1. The anti-trans “bathroom bill” legislators passed this spring is intended to bar transgender people from using the bathrooms, locker rooms and other facilities that align with their gender identity, but much is still unknown about how it will be enforced.
Iridescent Riffel, of Equality Kansas – Lawrence/Douglas County, spoke during the block party. She said now is the time for civil disobedience.
“We need you to be loud. We need you to be incessant, annoying, and be honest about your anger, because goddammit your anger is valid,” they said.
Riffel said homophobia and transphobia rarely pop up by themselves, and the Legislature’s actions are also tied to sexism, classism and racism.
“Our existence is a threat to Republicans in the Legislature,” Riffel said. “They’re coming for our rights. We’re not going to be complacent to their fascism, to their hate, or to our own eradication.”
She mentioned a group that is demanding that the City of Lawrence not enforce SB 180. The group will also push for Lawrence police not to enforce the ordinance; however, Riffel said enforcement is still unclear.
“We don’t know what the heck the enforcement is going to look like for it,” they said. “There are no defined charges or any penalty provisions for what could happen if I were to go, say, into a women’s restroom.”
The group is also pushing for the city to create an ordinance establishing this as a sanctuary city for transgender and gender-nonconforming people. Sexual orientation and gender identity are included in the city’s ordinance regarding protected classes.
Commissioner Amber Sellers asked the city attorney’s office last month to look at whether the bill will impact local protections for gender identity. City Attorney Toni Wheeler said staff members had looked at the bill and didn’t think it would have any impact on city operations, but they would look at it and provide some information.
Riffel also reminded folks that once SB 180 goes into effect, it will likely be impossible to change gender markers on Kansas birth certificates, driver’s licenses and IDs.
Legal experts are encouraging folks to act as quickly as possible to get their gender markers changed if they need to, but to wait until after July 1 to try to get their names changed because that likely will not be affected by the statute. (Read more about that at this link.)
“Trans kids here — we’re not going to stop fighting for you,” Riffel pledged.
Julia Johnson, co-founder of Hutchinson PRIDE, spoke briefly about how that group will be going to multiple pride events this year “because connections matter.”
“We will be anywhere you need us to be,” she said.
Johnson also encouraged people to stand up for their own First Amendment rights, because what they have to say is valid.
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More from Lawrence PRIDE 2023:
Lawrence PRIDE celebrated the first weekend of Pride Month with a downtown parade and block party. As people waved rainbow flags and walked dogs wearing rainbow tutus, the event showed what it can look like when a community comes together for the sake of diversity, love and acceptance.
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Note: Post updated June 18, 2023
Molly Adams (she/her), photographer for The Lawrence Times, is a Haskell alum with a passion for photojournalism. She strives to create authentic images that portray the true lives of Lawrence community members.