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'We don't think this is the right thing for Missouri': Advocates oppose anti-trans legislation

The bills would impact transgender children's experiences through school sports and healthcare.

ST. LOUIS — LGBTQ+ advocates continue their fight against Missouri legislation impacting transgender youth.

It comes after two bills passed in the Senate and Missouri's Attorney General, Andrew Bailey, announced his own "emergency regulation."

The bills at the center of it all would impact transgender children and their experiences through healthcare and school sports.

Opponents described the language as "jarring."

The attorney general announced an emergency regulation that restricts gender-affirming medical care for transgender people on Monday, March 20. 

Bailey is also investigating a St. Louis transgender center, which Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit against on Friday, March 31.

All of this is happening while two bills make its way through the capital. 

Robert Fischer, the director of communications at PROMO, said they won't stop fighting though.

"There are various attacks against the trans community and somewhere, somehow someone thought transgender issues, that’s the wedge issue that we need to really focus on and drive home and that’s where it’s happened," he said.

Fischer can only describe his feelings in one way right now.

"It's tough. The short answer is it's really tough," he said.

Fischer is with PROMO, Missouri's LGBTQ+ public policy and advocacy organization. 

The group has been fighting in Jefferson City against Senate Bill 49 and Senate Bill 39.

Fischer said these bills against transgender youth are starting to make families rethink where they are living.

"We’re hearing from parents of trans kids who are having conversations that they’re thinking about leaving the state. They don’t want to upend their child’s life here in Missouri, but they may have to because if the state legislature continues the way it’s going, they may not have any resources here," he said.

Senate Bill 49 would stop healthcare providers and doctors from providing gender transition procedures to any minor. 

Co-sponsors of the bill, like Sen. Holly Thompson-Rehder (R-Sikeston), called these procedures an "experiment."

"The outcome is not the same every time, so it hasn't been done enough that it's consistent," she said.

Reverend Mike Angell at Holy Communion Episcopal Church in University City has queer and trans youth members in his congregation.

"I find it really unfortunate. It does seem like some members of the Senate are targeting trans youth for political reasons and they are blocking access to needed healthcare. We had doctors and endocrinologists and really experts in the field testify why this is lifesaving healthcare and the Senate chose to prioritize politics over healthcare," he said.

Angell, along with 300 other clergy, published a signed letter in the Jefferson City paper opposing the legislation. 

"We don’t support this legislation. We don’t think this is the right thing for Missouri and we want our legislature to focus on real problems," he said.

While the fight is far from over, Angell is calling on more Christians to speak up and support the trans community.

"I think it’s really important that more Christians who are affirming of LGBTQ+ people and particularly the trans community speak up. The Christian voice is being represented as a voice of exclusion, of prejudice, of hate and more of us need to continue to show up in these hearings and show up for our trans siblings. Let it be known that the Christian faith is not about hate," he said.

Fischer said there is a positive in all of this, since education is happening, and it could lead to more acceptance. 

"There is continuously growing support for trans Missourians across both sides of the aisle too. With these bills really becomes education but also eventually it will come acceptance of who these people are and the fact that they just want to live their lives," he said.

PROMO will go back to Jefferson City for a public hearing when these bills are discussed in the House.

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