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Protesters gather in Jefferson City to oppose bills targeting trans youth

Protesters against bills targeting transgender youth in Missouri hold up signs during a rally. One of the signs reads "Trans Kids are Kids." Another sign says "I'm the scary transgender person the media warned you about."
Sarah Kellogg
St. Louis Public Radio
Demonstrators opposed to bills targeting transgender youth hold up signs during a rally held Wednesday at the state Capitol.

Over 300 people took over the south lawn of the Missouri Capitol for a couple of hours on Wednesday to protest a pair of bills targeting transgender youth in the state.

“We show up clearly today in love and in community, certainly, but we also show up in righteous anger and in rage,” said Katy Erker-Lynch, executive director of PROMO, an LGBTQ public policy and advocacy organization.

The demonstration cames less than a week after the Republican-led state Senate passed legislation barring transgender youth from receiving gender-affirming health care and participating on sports teams that align with their gender identity.

One of the bills targets transition-related health care like puberty blockers and hormone treatments. It prohibits those treatments for anyone under the age of 18, though transgender people who currently have a prescription for those treatments can continue them. Proponents said the bills are designed to protect children.

Erker-Lynch asked parents of cisgender kids to picture themselves as the parents of a trans child who has access to gender-affirming care.

“I want you to try to imagine having that care stripped from your child and denied not because your insurance denied it or because the standards of care have changed. But because certain politicians in the Missouri state legislature decided they know best and your child is forbidden from accessing that care,” Erker-Lynch said.

Both bills would partly or fully expire after four years, though lawmakers could extend that date.

Both bills next go to the House.

Sen. Greg Razer, D-Kansas City, the only openly gay man serving in the Senate, was one of many Democrats who filibustered the bill for hours before it passed.

Sen. Greg Razer stands at a podium on the Missouri Capitol steps. Razer is surrounded by other people as well as signs that say "Protect trans kids!" "Trans kids are kids," and "Gender affirming care is health care." Two members in the crowd hold LGBTQ friendly flags.
Sarah Kellogg
St. Louis Public Radio
Missouri Sen. Greg Razer, D-Kansas City, speaks during a rally Wednesday against bills targeting transgender youth. Over 300 people gathered in Jefferson City to hear from lawmakers and activists, some of whom are members of the LGBTQ community themselves.

“I am devastated that we lost. But the final score was a whole hell of a lot closer than we thought it was going to be,” Razer said.

Razer also said he wanted to focus on the positive, that more people in the state are learning and talking about transgender Missourians.

“They're talking about you thanks to bigots,” Razer said. “They are talking about you and they are learning about you and they're accepting you.”

Speakers included other state lawmakers and members of LGBTQ advocacy and policy groups.

Rep. Ashley Bland Manlove, D-Kansas City, one of several LGBTQ members in the House, spoke on the importance of not only showing up to the Capitol to protest legislation, but also of being proactive regarding elections.

“If you don't bring five people to the election poll with you on Election Day, you're being counterintuitive to yourself. So, this is a moment of self-accountability,” Bland Manlove said.

Transgender Missourians also spoke to the crowd, including Ella Mauzey, who went through the same transition-related care, puberty blockers and hormone treatment that the Senate bill bans.

“I have no idea where I would be if I didn't get that medical care. I hurt every day thinking about the kids who will not have that as an option, this lifesaving care that I got,” Mauzey said.

One of the rally attendees, Lynn Staley, said she was there with her husband to support not only their gay children, but also other friends who are a part of the LGBTQ community. Staley said their family has already thought about leaving Missouri.

“We talked about it all the time, like do we want to live in a state that doesn't provide full rights to all of its citizens? It's a real problem,” Staley said.

Kay Beesley said they’ve been feeling really hopeless regarding not only what’s been happening in Missouri, but in other states as well. However, they said they were pleasantly surprised with just how many people came out to the rally.

“I feel so much hope seeing how many people want to support fellow trans people,” Beesley said. “I came out for that. And I got exactly that. It warms my heart.”

Sarah Kellogg is a Missouri Statehouse and Politics Reporter for St. Louis Public Radio and other public radio stations across the state.