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'Our children are thriving' | Parents with transgender youth react to restrictive bills

A few families shared their experiences with gender-affirming healthcare.

ST. LOUIS — A group of parents with transgender children sat around a dining room table feeling like their freedom was on the line on Tuesday.

Missouri state senators returned to the floor after a long night of debate Tuesday morning and passed two bills that could impact those families and their experiences through healthcare and school sports.

“All of them are my children. They are near and dear to my heart, and I am angry,” Susan Halla, a parent and board president of TransParent, a 501c3 not-for-profit organization.

Senate Bill 49 sponsored by Senator Mike Moon (R-Missouri) would stop healthcare providers and doctors from providing gender transition procedures to any minor or making referrals for one. Washington University and St. Louis Children's Hospital provide those services.

“My child is 22 now. He came out to us when he was 15 to 16 years old when he was in high school and he did go through the program at Washington University … he is thriving,” Halla added.

“We are uncertain exactly how long it takes for chemical sterility or castration can take place after these hormones are given to these young people, but we do know that it does create harm, Sen. Mike Moon said.

Danielle Meert, whose 16-year-old completed the process, begged to differ. She told 5 On Your Side they had been fighting the legislation for four rounds, testifying, and having their personal experience ignored.

She argued that puberty blockers and gender-affirming hormones have worked for her son.

Research found that feminizing hormone therapy can be safe and effective when delivered by a health care provider with expertise in transgender care, according to Mayo Clinic.

"It wasn't until he came out as transgender and we started a social transition and then received gender-affirming health care that he started thriving,” Meert said.

“A family that is in the position where we were three years ago is not going to get that opportunity and my heart breaks for them,” Becky Hormuth, another parent, added.

The other bill, Senate Bill 39, would prevent students from participating in an athletic competition that is designated for the sex opposite of the one on the student's birth certificate or government record.

That applies to private, public, and public charter schools.

"Men are biologically bigger and stronger and faster and it's not fair to women to have to compete against that," Sen. Holly Rehder (R-Missouri), who sponsored the bill, said.

"If we really want to help cisgender girls and boys, we can fund education. If you also want to help girl with sports, you can get rid of white shorts," Meert added. 

 "I think athletes could focus on their sport more effectively if they weren't worried about bleeding through their tampon. Every female athlete has at least one absolute horror story about their period.”

The families told 5 On Your Side they planned to keep fighting.

"I think every person in Missouri should be outraged. If they are taking away my parental rights, who are they coming after next, they are coming for you," Halla said.

Credit: Susan Halla
Susan Halla and her son, Joey.

The measures on the table follow a Republican-led push across the nation to place restrictions on restroom access, drag performances, and LGBTQ lessons in the classroom.

Rabbi Daniel Bogard, who visits Jefferson City to voice his concern often, said:

"Our families are incredibly accepting ... our faith community is incredibly loving and accepting ... schools are accepting. The only bullies and the only bigots in our lives work for the Missouri government. The first thing that you learn when you have a trans kid in a red state is that you have to protect them from your government."

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