We’re not sure why, but the Kansas Legislature has complementary bills pending in each chamber regarding bathroom use at public schools and universities. We know the bills are about privacy, but we’re not convinced the concept is being applied to all students equally.

Both Senate Bill 513 and House Bill 2737 begin with this declaration: “Children and young adults have natural and normal concerns about physical privacy when they are in various states of undress, and most wish for members of the opposite sex not to be present in those circumstances.”

Fair enough, but what does that have to do with lawmaking in the Sunflower State? Apparently there are a number of legislators convinced that boys should be boys and girls should be girls — and neither should be in the other’s restroom. Following the simplistic argument, this legislation mandates one’s sex be defined as “the physical condition of being male or female, which is determined by a person’s chromosomes, and is identified at birth by a person’s anatomy.”

Almost worse than attempts to legislate issues of morality, of which the Kansas Legislature is fond, this attempt to assign bathroom privileges clearly is based on overly simplistic notions of how genetics work.

It is true most people have 23 pairs of chromosomes, and that the last pair is key to determining one’s sex. Generally speaking, a girl will have two X chromosomes there while a boy will have an X and a Y. Of the more than 20,000 different genes strewn across the chromosomes, there are a few dozen particular genes that need to activate in a specific fashion for the baby to develop into a boy. It takes but a small number of cells not following the prescribed order for that baby to display the opposite sex’s body parts — or end up somewhere in between boy and girl. Transgender individuals are conservatively estimated to comprise 0.3 percent of the population. It isn’t a chosen lifestyle. In fact, it isn’t a lifestyle at all. Like everybody else, they have to present the hand dealt by their genetic code.

These are the people the proposed legislation potentially could force into the wrong bathroom, or be singled out to use other facilities.

“It’s putting a target on their back,” said Tom Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas, in a Tribune News Service report.

Witt was referring to the potential law’s effect on transgender students. The bills, however, were written from the perspective of the non-transgender students and their right to privacy. They indicate: “Allowing students to use restrooms, locker rooms and showers that are reserved for students of a different sex will create potential embarrassment, shame, and psychological injury to students.”

Such shame and injury would be enough on its face to make school districts liable for $2,500 damages for each occurrence.

So in the name of privacy for 99-plus percent of students, legislators are willing to publicly identify the rest, further isolate them and potentially subject them to even more bullying. It strikes us as a policy that is not fair to all and at its heart is mean-spirited.

Surely there is a better solution that protects the privacy of all. Given the bigoted nature of these bills, that solution should be found at the local level.


Editorial by Patrick Lowry