Series 35: For the Love of Transitions | Episode 06
Understanding a Transgender Person with Stephanie Byers
When it comes to making a big transition in life, we are often held back by fear. Fear of judgment, fear of backlash, fear of losing those close to us. But, oftentimes, it takes a big transition to lead us toward a more fully authentic life. For some of us, on the surface, it’s easier to “be who we are” authentically—especially if we identify as straight cis-gender individuals. But for our friends in the trans community, taking the step to become who they really are has traditionally been fraught with roadblocks. For those who haven’t experienced this wall between us and our true selves, there can be a limited understanding of what a transgender person experiences and what defines them—and surprise—it’s different for each and every one. So this week, we’ve got one person’s story that might give us some insight into others we may know who are running into that wall that keeps them from truly knowing the joy of stepping fully into themselves. Stephanie Byers grew up in a time where there weren’t even words in our vernacular that she could cling to that could give her some sort of path to figure out her true identity. As the world evolved and other brave souls like Stephanie began to emerge, the community finally had a name—transgender. Stephanie walks us through the stages of her discovery of herself and how she finally decided to fully enter into her true self at the age of 51 and the response from her family and community. She also leads us through the journey that led her to become a force for change for equal rights for all different kinds of people by becoming Kansas’ first openly-trans state representative. Jen and Stephanie concur that it can be difficult to see from the perspective of a person whose very make-up is so different from our own, and that we may struggle to understand them fully, but it should never be a struggle to be kind in that process.
Hey, everybody. Jen Hatmaker here. Welcome to the For the Love Podcast. Got a big one today, guys. We’re in a series right now called For the Love of Transitions. We just kind of felt like as a team collectively, we are all working through transitions right now. A lot of us have transitioned inside of our work, our relationships. This is just a ubiquitous space that we are all in whether we are transitioning through something that we chose or didn’t choose.
Either way, a bunch of us are in this kind of in between. We’re from this to this. We’re moving from here to here. And some of those transitions are chosen. We made a decision that I am not going to live in this place anymore, but here. In whatever way we choose. But it could be that those of you listening for whom accepting truthfully like every part of who you are, so that you can live authentically is a part of your transition, embracing the way you were formed, the way you are wired, the way that you flourish, who you are deeply in your soul. So in order to walk on this Earth as you were really meant to do.
That is harder than it sounds because we have been handed a narrative across many spectrums between gender and sexuality and work environments and glass ceilings and expectations and religious constraints and geographical norms. I mean pick it. We’ve been handed a way to be depending on what body you were born in, where you were born, all of it.
So it is actually way harder than it sounds to live 100% truthfully in our own lives in this world. I know this. I’ve done this work. If you’ve been around me at all, I have absolutely chosen authenticity, whatever the cost may be. Don’t throw me a parade. I lived for years not choosing that because I was afraid to lose all that I knew I was going to lose in order to embrace my actual convictions, my beliefs, my values, who I actually really am, not who my subculture wanted me to be, expected me to be.
So I know about this. I know about the cost. I know about the fear. But I’ll tell you what I also know, I know about the freedom now. The freedom is worth it all. The freedom of authenticity, the freedom of being one version of yourself all the time, the real one where you’re not having to pick different versions of yourself depending on who you’re talking to. You cannot put a price on it. You cannot. In my estimation, it’s the only way to live.
Our guest today, we’re lucky, man. She knows what it’s like to choose authenticity, whatever the cost so that she lives her most meaningful life of possibility. I am honored today to welcome Stephanie Byers to the show. Kansas State Representative and the first openly trans person to be a part of the Kansas legislature. Very big deal. You’ve obviously seen her in the news. Her journey inspired an untold amount of people and it all started with her knowing who she actually was.
Stephanie was elected in November of 2020. She is the recipient of the GLSEN Kansas State Educator of the Year and the GLSEN National Educator of the Year. She was a career educator in music. She’ll talk about that. So she retired after 29 years of teaching for the Wichita Public Schools where she was the award-winning director of bands and orchestras at Wichita North High School. She’s an Oklahoman by birth, a member of the Chickasaw Nation, and she’s lived in Wichita for three decades.
So that is her adult home and she has worked tirelessly to create and operate community groups that are based in inclusivity, dignity, and rights, and understanding of diverse communities. I mean, she’s really impressive so buckle up. She talks in this interview about everything. Her personal transition, which interestingly she says really wasn’t her transition at all. That was just simply her finally telling the truth. It’s everybody else that has to transition around her.
What she’s learned, what she’s leading toward, it’s a powerful conversation. She’s a powerful person and I’m really proud of her. I’m proud to know her and I’m proud to meet her. These are the pioneers in our world that we’ll just be talking about for a really long time, the firsts, right? The ones who went first. First of their kind, first in their office, first in their state. And Stephanie is one of those. So we’re very lucky to have her today. You’re going to love this conversation.
Whatever your experience with the trans community, I’m glad you’re here today. You will learn something today. You will just listen and learn today. Listen and learn, listen to Stephanie’s perspective, her experience. She brings so much to the table here around numerous intersections of how to be in the world. So proud of her, excited to know her. Can’t wait to meet her in person. You’re going to love her now. So I’m so pleased to share my conversation with the wise and smart and courageous Stephanie Byers.
Books & Resources Mentioned in This Episode
U.S. Supreme Court Case: Bostock v. Clayton County
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XO – Team Jen