Web Analytics Made Easy - Statcounter

Missouri joins nationwide assault on Trans rights

Share this Post:
Photo courtesy of ACLU
Photo courtesy of ACLU

Missouri is the latest state to enter the fight against Trans rights, having introduced new anti-Trans bills in the Republican-led House of Representatives and voting to advance more to the Senate. The bills target Trans youth, in particular.

Denying medical care to Trans youth
The first bill, HB 2649 (also referred to as the "Missouri Save Adolescents From Experimentation, or SAFE, Act), which has been introduced in the House and is expected to be voted on soon, bans all state and federally funded health care workers from performing "gender transition procedures" on anyone under the age of 18, regardless of parental support or permission. The bill also prevents any state-funded facilities from performing gender-affirming surgeries on minors or referring them for gender-affirming care outside of the state.

The SAFE Act also proposes changes to state and federal health care plans starting January 1, 2023. The bill aims to prevent all public health plans from covering medical expenses related to gender transition for anyone under 18, including hormone blockers.

Missouri is the fifth state to introduce a SAFE Act since the beginning of 2021, but this particular variant of the popular bill is the most restrictive.

Republican Rep. Suzie Pollock introduced the bill. She defended it to the committee, saying, "These drugs can sterilize children and never allow them to experience an orgasm. Do you want to do that to a child? Do you want to strip them of that? If they go all the way through it, they are never content. People who are fully Trans don't have normal sexual function. You are stealing that from children. My main goal is to protect children."

Banning Trans girls from school sports
Aside from the SAFE Act, Missouri is also voting on legislation that will impact school-aged Trans youth. The House voted to amend HB 1973, which bans Trans athletes from competing for the teams that match their gender identity.

The law states, "Students participating in sex-separated interscholastic athletic contests [are] eligible only to participate in athletic contests organized for the same biological sex that is on the student's birth certificate." Opponents of the amendment have noted that the Missouri State High School Activities Association already has rules prohibiting Trans athletes from competing for the team that matches their gender identity.

The section of the bill focusing on Trans athletes is a tack-on to the original bill, which originally focused on different aspects related to mental health. The bill included limits to Medicaid coverage for those in mental health facilities and, ironically enough, attempted to curb teen suicide rates by requiring the three-digit suicide prevention number, 988, to be printed on all student IDs.

In response to the attack on Trans students added into the otherwise non-LGBTQ+ bill, Rep. LaDonna Appelbaum of St. Louis reminded the legislative body that members of the LGBTQ+ community are four times more likely to commit suicide and that oppressive legislation does not help with this statistic.

Unfortunately, SB 1978 isn't the only Missouri legislation to sneak anti-Trans language into an otherwise unrelated bill. HB 2140, also voted on in the state House of Representatives last week, focuses on voter laws. However, amidst the over 25 proposed changes to those laws sits one sneaky subsection that bans Trans women from competing in girls' sports.

Section 23 of the bill states that it "authorizes any school district to adopt specified provisions prohibiting students of the male sex from participating in athletic activities reserved exclusively for females if such provisions are approved by a vote of the residents of the school district."

Photo courtesy of PROMO Missouri  

The double standard of anti-Trans sports legislation
While many of Missouri's proposed laws and existing policies on youth athletics are undeniably transphobic, they are also sexist. Lawmakers who defend the bills, like state Rep. Chuck Basye, who said, "This isn't about hate, this is about fairness," refuse to see Trans girls as real girls. These Republicans often refer to them as "biological boys" and ban them from girls' sports, but they do not propose the same restrictions on Trans boys. They not only allow them to participate in boys' sports but often propose banning them from competing in girls' sports.

"There's lots of examples in our society that males are biologically superior than females," Basye continued, as he defended the recent anti-Trans bills. Another Republican representative, Ron Copeland, added that he is okay with "biological women" playing male sports due to the "biological differences." Republican senators, it seems, are okay with Trans athletes, as long as they are set up to lose to their cis competitors.

Despite the popular argument coming from Missouri legislators that these laws will "protect their daughters," Democratic Rep. Peter Merideth pointed out that anti-Trans legislation is not the way to protect children. "I've got three daughters. I want to protect my three daughters. This stuff is not how we do it," he said to the committee. "This is not about protecting our daughters. It's about ignorance and fear. It's about bullying the most vulnerable group of kids in our state to score political points."

While these bills have passed the House of Representatives, they still need to be voted on by the Senate before becoming law. While slightly more liberal, the state Senate still has a conservative majority.

The Senate was scheduled hear SB 781 on Monday, May 2. This bill, referred to as the "Save Women's Sports Act" is being reintroduced after failing to be passed in 2021. The bill protects schools from federal backlash for prohibiting Trans girls in sports and punishes those who allow Trans girls to participate in sports programs by taking away all state funding.

The fight for MONA
Along with this wave of anti-Trans bills, Missouri does not currently have any state protections against discrimination against LGBTQ+ people. It is still legal in the state for people to be denied housing, service, and even fired due to their sexuality or gender identity. For the last 24 years, legislators on both sides of the aisle have attempted to pass the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act (MONA), to no avail.

Rep. Tom Hannigan, an openly Gay member of the state's Republican Party, was a primary advocate for MONA during his six years in the legislature. Unfortunately, Hannigan passed away last year due to a stroke. To honor his memory, Hannigan's Republican colleague and officemate, Rep. Shamed Dogan, filed MONA this year.

"It's something that was a calling of Tom's," Dogan said. "[It was] just something that he wanted to see, because it would help not just him, not just people like him, but just everybody in Missouri."

Shira Berkowitz, a public policy administrator for the Missouri-based LGBTQ+ advocacy group PROMO, admits that MONA has not passed in the last 24 years because the law includes protections for Trans and Nonbinary people. While a proposed law only protecting against sexual orientation—based discrimination may be more successful in passing through the legislature, LGBTQ+ advocates like Hannigan and Berkowitz have been unwilling to compromise on the bill.

Rep. Rasheen Aldridge Jr. also filed a version of MONA this year, making sure to include protections for Trans people in his bill. "I'm a proud Gay, Black, disabled man," he said. "No one should have to take their life just because they want to love somebody that may look like them, or may identify the same as them."

"This is something that needs to happen, something that we should be doing to protect people, because these individuals are our cousins, or our brothers, or our sisters," he said to the House of Representatives on April 26. "Some are out, but there's a lot of them that are not out, and we should protect all those individuals."