JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Just days after the Missouri Senate passed legislation aimed at the LGBTQ community, hundreds gathered at the Capitol to protest on behalf of trans rights.
At the beginning of the January session, Republicans said it was a priority to pass legislation limiting transgender athletes. While the legislation approved by senators last week is moving forward inside the state house, people outside say this is a way for Missourians to learn more about the LGBTQ community.
“Part of my speech was thanking the majority party for bringing this up, because we know through our history,y that when people start talking, people start learning,” Sen. Greg Razer, D-Kansas City, told the crowded gathered on the Capitol lawn. “People in Missouri are talking about trans-Missourians.”
Last week, the upper chambers passed two bills prohibiting doctors from performing surgeries or prescribing puberty blockers or hormone treatments to minors, and requiring transgender athletes to play on the team that matches the gender on their birth certificate.
“Here we are again, back to ensure that we protect our trans kids,” Miss Gay Missouri America 2023 Akasha Royale, an advocate for the LGBTQ community, said.
The event was put on by PROMO, an advocacy and resource group for the LGBTQ community. Those in the crowd were trans-Missourians, parents, and even teachers.
“I’m here to support my students,” resident of Kansas and teacher Les Tilley said. “I’ve been through this myself as a trans person and I have trans students and I think this is so important to them. I want life to be easier for them then it was for me growing up.”
Tilley said that trans health care is important for life, and he says this topic becoming so politicized is detrimental to the LGTBQ community.
“It can have a big impact on kids’ self-esteem and if you’re stuck in a situation where you don’t feel confident that can be really hurtful and damaging,” Tilley said. “We are dealing with legislation that could seriously hinder these kids.”
The controversial topic stalled the Senate for days last week and even before spring break. Last Monday evening, Democrats in the upper chamber filibustered for nearly 13 hours before the vote was taken. For days before the vote was taken, closed-door meetings took place to find a compromise between parties.
“I’ve devastated that we lost, but the final score was a whole hell of a lot closer than what we thought it would be,” Razer said Wednesday.
The compromise was a grandfather clause, allowing patients who already started the transition process before the law would take effect to continue. Another provision agreed upon: parts of the bill regarding puberty blockers and hormone treatments and also transgender athletes would explore at the end of August 2027 unless renewed by lawmakers.
According to the Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA), eight trans-student athletes have been approved through the policy on sports participation for transgender athletes, four of whom are competing at the junior high level and four at the senior high level.
Republicans who filed the legislation and voted in support of the measures said they are protecting a vulnerable population.
“If someone is disappointed in Missouri because they can’t harm kids here, we are better if they are gone,” Sen. Bill Eigel, R-Weldon Spring, said on the Senate floor last week.
Protestors could be heard yelling, “Protect trans lives,” multiple times during the rally.
“I don’t want to see you leave and I know there are a hundred other friends here that don’t want to see you leave,” Royale said. “We are here for you. We care for you.”
Razer said last week that he has spoken to some trans families who said they want to leave the state because of the legislation targeting trans youth. Advocates at Wednesday’s rally said they want the LGBTQ community to know, the fight isn’t over.
“I’m here for you, I support you, no matter how this turns out and just know you have an adult in your corner,” Tilley said.
The two bills are now in the hands of the House, where the Speaker has said this topic is a priority for him.
This comes as Attorney General Andrew Bailey announced he is filing an emergency rule to restrict doctors from providing gender-affirming care to minors.
The rule would require an 18-month waiting period for gender-affirming treatments for minors. The rule has not yet been filed, but his office says it will include informing patients that the FDA has warned that puberty blockers can lead to brain swelling and blindness and ensure that patients have received a full psychological or psychiatric assessment of at least 15 separate hourly sessions over at least 18 months.
Since the rule has not yet been filed, care is still ongoing in the state.
Bailey’s office says the rule could be filed in the coming days. This week, Bailey’s office also launched an online form for reports of questionable gender transition interventions. His office says this stems from an investigation into the St. Louis Pediatric Transgender Center at Children’s Hospital.