Stephanie Byers Makes History as First Out Trans Person of Color Elected to State Legislature

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday November 4, 2020

Stephanie Byers made history twice over Nov. 3 when she defeated GOP opponent Cyndi Howerton to win a seat on the Kansas state house, becoming the first openly trans person elected to the Kansas state legislature.

Byers, who is Native American and a member of the Chickasaw Nation, also became the first out trans person of color to be elected to any state legislature in U.S. history.

Byers' win was announced by the Victory Fund, which supports LGBTQ political candidates of both parties. The Victory Fund had endorsed Byers' candidacy.

Moreover, the Victory Fund noted, Byers, 57, is "just the third openly LGBTQ person ever elected to the Kansas state legislature — with state Reps. Susan Ruiz and Brandon Woodard being the first in 2018."

"We've done something in Kansas most people thought would never happen, and we did it with really no push-back, by just focusing on the issues," Byers, a retired school teacher from Wichita, told supporters, the New York Post reports.

"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," said the head of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, Annise Parker, herself the history-making out former mayor of Houston, Texas.

"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," Parker added.

Byers joins a number of other openly LGBTQ candidates who won their races in this election cycle. Prior to now, only four openly trans candidates had been elected to state legislatures, but this year's elections saw several more elected, including Byers, Sarah McBride, who became the first openly trans candidate to win a seat in a state senate with her victory in Delaware, and Taylor Small, who won office as a state representative in Vermont, becoming the first openly trans candidate to be elected to the Vermont state legislature.

Mauree Turner also made history as the first openly non-binary candidate to be elected to a state legislature. Turner won a seat in the state house in Kansas.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.