Transgender advocates gather in Jefferson City to fight bills

January 27, 2023


missouri news network

Jan. 24, 2023

JEFFERSON CITY — The House Committee on General Laws spent hours hearing testimony Tuesday evening on eight anti-LGBTQ bills, which opponents complained were scheduled with less than 25 hours’ notice.

Bills prohibiting transgender women from competing on female athletic teams, banning gender affirming procedures for those under 18 and criminalizing drag shows on public property were heard by the committee.

Prior to the hearing, PROMO and ACLU Missouri held a press conference at the Capitol to demonstrate support for transgender and LGBTQ youth. Speakers included Missouri politicians and transgender women.

Rep. Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, shared her anger with colleagues at a press conference: “I’m angry that we got 25 hours’ notice for the most amount of bills in one hearing that we have ever had attacking children.”

A common message from speakers who opposed the proposed legislation was one of anger, frustration and support for the LGBTQ community. Speakers emphasized to the LGBTQ youth of Missouri that there are people standing behind them and fighting for them.

Katy Erker-Lynch, executive director of PROMO, said “there are indeed more of us, those committed to your success, your health and your wellness than there are those seeking to erase and criminalize our existence.”

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas condemned the “foolishness” of the bills. He said he is fighting for the Missouri he wants his son to grow up in. “One that is accepting, one that is welcoming, one that does not hate, one that does not stand silent when others are hating.”

“As a trans woman, I will not be erased. As a drag queen, I will not be erased. As a human, I will not be erased,” said Jordan Braxton, a transgender woman and drag queen representing TransParent. “Drag rights are human rights, and, damn it, I’m keeping my rights.”

Various legislators spoke at the press conference, including Sen. Greg Razer, D-Kansas City, and Rep. Ian Mackey, D-St. Louis, who lauded the audience for coming to share their stories.

The hearing drew so many people that it required a second room for an overflow crowd. More people stood outside to watch and listen. The committee first heard bills that aim to exclude transgender women from women’s athletic teams.

The “Save Women’s Sports Act” is sponsored by Rep. Brian Seitz, R-Branson, who is addressing the issue for the first time, while Reps. Jamie Burger, R-Benton, and Bennie Cook, R-Houston, are multitime sponsors of their bills.

The three bill sponsors were often short while responding to inquiries from the committee. Cook continually responded that he could “read the bill again” rather than answering specific questions.

“Within the next decade, we are in serious danger of having only men’s sports and co-ed sports with no league specifically for biological females,” Seitz said. He argued that transgender female athletes will take victories and scholarships away from cisgender female athletes.

“Ask yourselves: ‘Is it fair that a biological male competes as a female to take away the hard-earned medal, trophy or ribbon? Is it fair that biological males are taking scholarships from hard-working female athletes?’” Seitz said.

The bills regarding transgender athletes passed through the House last year, but the Senate didn't vote on them. Representatives and witnesses who oppose the legislation expressed frustration with having to relive testimony on the issue for another year.

The three sponsors underwent heavy questioning from Democrats and a few Republicans from the committee. Much of the questioning focused on intersex youth and how the bill sponsors are not knowledgeable of the Missouri State High School Activities Association’s or NCAA’s current policy on transgender athletes.

MSHSAA’s application process for transgender athletes has been in place since 2012 for transgender females who want to compete on girls' teams.

Those women can do so once they’ve taken hormone-suppression medication for one year and have to prove continued use of treatment to stay eligible. Only 12 athletes have applied and been approved through this process since 2012. In 2021-22, only five student-athletes applied and were approved to play sports using this process.

Many Democrats used these numbers to argue that the bills are a waste of the legislature’s time. Many protested Seitz’s claims that the bills were pro-women policies.

”If you really want to help women, this is not it! Thank you, gentlemen, for wasting our time,” said Rep. Emily Weber, D-Kansas City.

Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft testified in support of the bill and cited his experiences as a father of a daughter as his reason for supporting it. Many Democrats on the committee accused him of testifying for political gain and to boost his chances for a run for governor.

”I’m here to protect women’s sports,” Ashcroft testified. “If you actually read the bills, none of these tell anyone they can’t compete ... . Those bills just say that women’s sports are protected to say women have the ability to compete on a fair playing field.”

The fight over this issue has been happening at the Capitol for six years, a fact that has not been lost on lawmakers, especially those involved with the communities coming to oppose the legislation.

“Every stinking time, we won the war," Razer said. "We can get married, we can serve in the military, we can have federal jobs and can be a state senator. And someday, you’re gonna play whatever sport you want to play on the appropriate team for you to play.”

The committee hearing continued past 10 p.m. on bills related to gender transition policies.