JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Dozens of advocates, including drag queens in full makeup, rallied Tuesday at Missouri's Capitol against bills banning transgender athletes from participating on girls sports teams, gender-affirming treatment for transgender kids and public drag shows.
Jordan Braxton, who is in leadership at the advocacy group TransParent and performs in drag as Dieta Pepsi, told a group of about 100 advocates that the legislation up for debate “is hurting our trans kids.”
“As a trans woman I will not be erased,” she said. “As a drag queen I will not be erased. As a human being I will not be erased.”
Doctors, along with many parents and educators, say legislation targeting LGBTQ people, and in particular youths, helps foster a climate of homophobia and transphobia.
Bills considered during a House committee hearing included restrictions on which teams transgender athletes play on — particularly girls — from K-12 through college. Transgender girls could only play on boys' teams under several proposals.
Republican bill sponsors argued the legislation is necessary because boys have an unfair advantage, although both Republican and Democratic committee members questioned whether boys are intrinsically better at all sports compared to girls.
Missouri’s current public high school sports rules already prohibit transgender girls from competing on girls teams unless they’ve undergone at least a year of hormone therapy and continue taking medication to maintain their hormone levels.
The Missouri State High School Activities Association requires transgender athletes to apply and submit documentation of medical care in order to compete as the gender they identify with.
A spokesman for the association said 13 students have been approved since the organization adopted the rules in 2012, including only four transgender girls.
Republican Rep. Brian Seitz, of Branson, said he has not read the association's rules on transgender athletes and has “no idea what intersex is.”
“The science is clear,” Republican Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft told lawmakers. “I’m not saying that men are superior to women, but genetically men have a better bone mass. They generally have stronger muscle mass. They’re generally faster. They’re generally stronger.”
Ashcroft's comments, which strayed from his typical testimony on elections issues, prompted Democrats to question if he's running for Missouri governor in 2024, when Republican Gov. Mike Parson will be term-limited from campaigning for re-election.
Seitz's and other lawmakers' proposals would require parents to sign affidavits every year about their kids’ sexes. Schools that violate the bills would face losing all state funding or being sued by other student athletes.
Other bills would ban Missouri doctors from providing any gender-affirming treatments for minors and prevent insurance from covering those treatments for minors.
Transgender medical treatment for children and teens is increasingly under attack in many states, labeled child abuse and subject to criminalizing bans. But it has been available in the United States for more than a decade and is endorsed by major medical associations.
Another bill would make performing in drag in public or where a minor could watch a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine.
Summer Ballentine, The Associated Press