Students walk out in support of trans rights

Following anti-trans legislation, students gather to fight against restrictive laws


Following the introduction of numerous bills targeting transgender youths in the Kansas Legislature, Lawrence High students marched down Louisiana Street and 23rd Street to voice concerns and anger late this morning.

About 250 students participated, showing support for the rights of themselves and fellow students in place of attending their fourth-hour classes.

“As a person who is not cisgender, it’s important to me to stand up for my rights, and stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves, and use my privilege to help advance these things,” senior Shruti Mallik said.

The protest was planned in response to bills targeting transgender individuals that have been passed within the last month. 

As of March 17, House Bill No. 2238, or the student-athlete bill, was vetoed by Gov. Laura Kelly.

To many, these bills feel like a regression from advancements that have been made in the past that threaten to set a precedent for future legislation dangerous to those who identify as transgender.

Junior January Jackson, who participated in the walkout, added that these bills do not exclusively exist in Kansas.

“The way this year has started out, it’s been a dark time,” Jackson said. “So this walkout was a really good thing for people. The legislation being brought up has made me feel hopeless. It’s like every time we take a step forward, we take two back, and seeing all the states who are passing these bills, it’s overall depressing.”

Lawrence Activism on Instagram, who organized an abortion rights walk-out last May, took charge of this issue. At LHS, junior Ash Owecke served as the main organizer.

“I’ve known the person who’s behind Lawrence Activism for years, since elementary school,” Owecke said. “She goes to Free State, and I reached out to her and said, ‘Hey, there’s some messed up stuff going on right now. Let’s organize a walkout or something.’ That’s our human rights, and she was on board.”

As they have in the past, Lawrence High students were quick to answer the call to protest, and a group of students that spanned three blocks spoke out in protest, one of whom was junior Annika Maximov.

“I have a lot of transgender people in my life that I love dearly,” Maximov said. “I am disgusted by the fact that legislators want to perform things like genital inspections, and not allow people to express themselves the way they are in school and in public.”

Some students who identify as transgender, however, protested because they feel like they are potentially fighting for their lives and seek the ability to safely express who they are, without discrimination.

“I don’t want to have to live in fear of being killed, or have to hide who I am,” freshman Ash Wagner said. “I want to be able to live in a world where I can grow up to be myself, and not have someone tell me who to be.”

The message reached all levels of the LHS community, as many LHS faculty members participated in the protest as well, supporting their students in the fight, one of whom was English teacher Melissa Johnson.

“I feel strongly about this and supporting my students,” Johnson said. “I want students to know that they have the support of adults in the building, and we are with them, and we absolutely believe in equal rights.”

Maximov said the event was indicative of the overall spirit of this generation of students.

“My hope is to spread awareness in our community,” she said. “Our generation cares and our generation is going to change things.”

Jack Ritter, Finn Lotton-Barker, Kayleigh Gill, Kellar Mussar, Jonas Lord and Fiona Bini contributed to this report.