The Kansas Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics (KAAP) applauds Governor Kelly’s veto of Senate Bill 55 that would prohibit transgender youth from participating in sports according to their gender identity.
The pandemic has led to a staggering rise in mental health concerns, suicidality, and untimely death among children and teens. Transgender children had statistically higher rates of depression and suicidal ideation before the pandemic: around half of transgender youth consider suicide, and a third attempt it.
School environments play a significant role in the social and emotional development of children. Every child has a right to feel safe and respected at school, but for youth who identify as transgender, this can be challenging. Nearly every aspect of school life may present safety concerns and require negotiations regarding their gender expression, including name/pronoun use, use of bathrooms and locker rooms, sports teams, dances and activities, overnight activities, and even peer groups. The Kansas AAP recognizes the importance of inclusion to ensure that all young people are respected and provided the opportunity to celebrate in the rich diversity of people and perspectives found throughout the great state of Kansas.
SB 55 would negatively impact and discriminate against both transgender and intersex youth in Kansas. Gender is a complex issue, medically and socially, and as such is not binary for all individuals.
We also recommend that playing on sports teams helps youth develop self-esteem, correlates positively with overall mental health, and appears to have a protective effect against suicide. Forcing transgender children to play on teams according to their sex assigned at birth, rather than the gender they live in, also puts their physical and mental health at risk.
Politics has no place here. Transgender children, like all children, just want to belong. The purpose of this KAAP statement is to make sure they know they do.