Protesters gather in Jefferson City to oppose anti-trans legislation

The legislation limits transgender youth’s access to sports teams that match their gender identity and gender-confirming healthcare for minors.

A group of about 50 protesters demonstrated outside the Missouri Capitol on April 17. They gathered to oppose a number of bills that would bar transgender youth from playing on sports teams that match their gender identity and receiving gender-confirming hormonal or surgical therapy before age 18.

Abolitionists @ Mizzou organized the protest, which convened at 2 p.m. on the corner of High Street and Broadway near the Capitol. A few people passed around a pink megaphone and spoke to the crowd about why they thought the bills were transphobic and oppressive. At about 2:20 p.m., the group began their march around the Capitol. They held signs and chanted, “Protect trans kids” and “Trans folks united will never be divided” as they looped around the building and back again.

MU junior Noah Wright, who has previously contributed to The Maneater, runs Abolitionists @ Mizzou’s social media and spearheaded the march. They were also the first to speak to the crowd. They said the bills pose a mortal, violent threat to transgender youth.

“These bills aren't about protecting women's sports or about protecting children,” Wright said. “It's about discrimination and transphobia — it's about violence. These bills are going to kill kids.”

The Missouri House of Representatives approved a provision to a bill 100-51 last week that would ban transgender girls from girls sports. It must go through two more votes in the full House until it can move on to the state Senate.

State Rep. Chuck Basye, R-Rocheport, sponsored a resolution that would enshrine these restrictions into the state constitution. HJR 53 would ban those assigned male at birth from playing on girls sports teams. It would also restrict student athletes at public schools to either coed sports teams or the team that matches the sex they were assigned at birth.

Basye said the purpose of the bill is to protect cisgender girls from having to compete against transgender girls, whom he said have an unfair advantage.

“It doesn't say somebody can't be a transgender,” Basye said. “It doesn't say they can't play sports. I'll say it one more time: If a male decides they want to transition to a female, they have every right to do that. But if they do that, they're not going to be able to play in female sports because they're taking opportunities away from biological females.”

Basye said people should “follow the science” on transgender athletes, just like “everybody keeps saying” about COVID-19.

It is true that cisgender men have more testosterone, which makes them stronger and faster on average than cisgender women. A study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that about two years of hormone therapy mostly cancels out the athletic advantages a transgender woman had before transitioning. Transgender women who take puberty blockers at a young age never accumulate enough testosterone to get an edge. And cisgender and transgender women alike can have genetic variations that can naturally improve or hurt their athletic performance.

MU sophomore Kanchan Hans said it is hypocritical that politicians like Basye say their bills will protect women’s rights, considering the policies the lawmakers oppose.

"They’re like, ‘If we punish trans kids for doing all these things, women will be protected,’ even though that's not the case,” Hans said. “They’re using women's rights as a false way to push their transphobia. If they truly did care about women's rights, they would make bills about issues that women face like reproductive health care or rape and sexual assault.”

State Rep. Suzie Pollock, R-Lebanon, proposed legislation that prohibits health professionals from administering hormone treatment or performing gender confirmation surgeries on children under 18. HB 33 would allow state licensing boards to revoke the license of a health professional who gives either of these treatments.

In a quote from a March 15 article in the Kansas City Star, Pollock said her bill would protect children from making a decision that would be difficult to reverse.

“They can go to all the counseling and dress and change their name and whatever they want to do, I just don’t want them medically treated with drugs,” Pollock said. “In what other area do we allow children to make those decisions so young?”

MU freshman Marion Johnson said that despite what lawmakers say, bills restricting gender confirmation care will not protect kids. They pointed out that the same politicians who oppose treatment for transgender kids support surgery for intersex children. Doctors typically perform these surgeries of their own accord on infants, which can leave them infertile and traumatized for life.

Johnson said lawmakers should instead focus on lowering the suicide rate among transgender youth. The American Academy of Pediatrics found in 2018 that 50.8% of transgender boys and 29.9% of transgender girls reported attempting suicide. According to Canada’s Centre for Suicide Prevention, gender dysphoria, or the feeling that one’s body does not match their gender identity, is a suicide risk factor for transgender people. A study in the American Journal of Psychiatry showed that transgender people who underwent gender-confirming care required less mental health treatment over time.

Hans said anti-trans legislation is especially terrible in a place like Missouri, where she said transgender people face “a lot of problems.” She said bills like these stigmatize transgender people, which might inspire transphobic violence — like the shooting of Dominique Lucious, a transgender woman killed this month in Springfield, Missouri.

Sam Martin, who is transgender, said she wished she “didn’t have to [protest],” but she felt she must as long as attacks on trans rights and murders of trans people continue.

“It is exhausting … that we have to hold decorum for these people that are not willing to learn,” Martin said. “We just have to keep beating ourselves against the wall and hope that they take the time to listen, and that's not even guaranteed.”

Missouri Republicans overwhelmingly support the sports and health care bills. Republicans also have a supermajority in both houses of the Missouri General Assembly, and Gov. Mike Parson is a Republican. It is possible that forms of these bills will become law.

Johnson said that although this possibility hurts, it doesn’t shock them.

“The idea that representatives in Missouri are trying to silence trans people isn't surprising or new to me,” Johnson said. “It does hurt that these people want to literally kill children — because these bills will kill children.”

Edited by Sophie Chappell | schappell@themaneater.com

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