A recently retired teacher from Wichita, Stephanie Byers made history twice on election night becoming Kansas’s first transgender elected official after winning her bid for the Kansas House of Representatives 86th District. And she is the first Indigenous trans person elected to any state legislature.
A recipient of the GLSEN-Kansas Educator of the Year and the GLSEN National Educator of the Year, Byers beat Republican challenger Cyndi Howerton. Byers ran unopposed in the Democratic primary. The incumbent, Democrat Jim Ward, gave up the seat to run for the state's Senate.
As of Tuesday night, Byers had 54.4 percent of the vote to Howerton's 45.6 percent, The Wichita Eagle reports. "The results are preliminary, as ballots postmarked by Tuesday and provisional ballots have yet to be counted," the paper notes.
Born in Oklahoma, Byers is a member of the Chickasaw Nation and has lived in Wichita for 30 years. She and her wife, Lori Haas, run Gender.Training, “a company that assists corporations, community groups and schools with understanding of working with diverse communities,” according to her campaign website.
Regarding her historic run, Byers told TV station KAKE, “For me, being transgender is just another aspect of who I am. I'm also a member of the Chickasaw Nation. I ride a motorcycle. I'm a musician. I have bachelor's and master's degrees in education. These are all just things that make a part of who I am. It's not what totally defines me.
“I do realize that it could be Kansas historic for me to be elected into office and have a person who is transgender serving in our legislature. But it's not the main emphasis of what's going on.”
Annise Parker, president and CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, which endorsed Byers, released this statement: “Stephanie shattered a lavender ceiling in Kansas and its impact will reverberate well beyond the borders of the state. Her victory will inspire more trans people to run for office because they see it is possible and understand these candidates are transforming how America perceives them. While cynical politicians attempted to weaponize trans issues for political gain this cycle, Stephanie’s victory is a powerful reminder that most voters reject the politics of bigotry and will elect trans people who have a positive vision for their communities.”
Byers wasn’t the only LGBTQ+ Indigenous candidate to win on election night. Rep. Sharice Davids, a lesbian who won during the big blue wave of 2018, won reelection to the U.S. House of Representatives, according to KCUR.