JEFFERSON CITY — Corey Hyman is scared. He is a transgender male who has just begun transitioning, and he is scared because there are 15 pieces of anti-LGBTQ legislation moving through the Missouri legislature this session that would greatly affect his life.
“If these bills were to go through, so many would be affected and lives would be lost,” Hyman said at a press conference Wednesday. “We deserve dignity and respect, just like everyone else.”
House Democrats held the press conference to stress their opposition to the flurry of anti-LGBTQ legislation.
“Despite the countless stories shared, despite the unnerving number of murders against the trans community, despite 50% of LGBTQ individuals attempting suicide at some point in their lifetime, Republicans in the legislature decided to file an obscene number — 15 — of anti-LGBTQ bills this year, the second most in the country,” House Minority Leader Rep. Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, said.
The 15 bills in question cover a myriad of topics. They include HJR 82, which would require transgender athletes to play on the sports team that matches the gender they were assigned at birth; HB 1565, which would let parents opt their students out of any class that includes curriculum related to gender issues; and HB 1721, which would prohibit doctors from performing gender reassignment surgeries on anyone younger than 18.
Rep. Robert Ross, R-Yukon, sponsor of HJR 82, said his bill is just an issue of fairness.
“My bill is not an anti-LGBT bill,” Ross said. “It protects female athletes.”
Rep. Chuck Basye, R-Rocheport, echoed Ross and said the Democrats are making these bills into “something they aren’t.”
Those against the bills feel that Republicans have found “a new group to pick on.”
“If the majority party thinks that attacking transgender people is the way to win elections ... , then bring it on, because our community and our allies have been fighting this for years, and we’ll continue to fight it, and we will eventually win,” Rep. Greg Razer, D-Kansas City, said.
Quade said all anti-LGBTQ bills filed in the House this session have been promptly referred to a committee by the speaker of the House, Rep. Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, while all the pro-LGBTQ bills have remained stagnant. Haahr could not be reached for comment.
Quade also said that when these bills have had their public hearings, opponents have not been given a fair amount of time to testify. “Folks who drove upwards of four hours to share their own stories were denied their chance to speak in the people’s house,” Quade said.
However, Basye, who chairs the Elementary and Secondary Education Committee, pushed back. He said that sometimes that just happens because of limited time. “We try to be fair to both sides,” Basye said.
While these LGBTQ-targeted bills have been progressing, Democrats have been working to pass the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act, or MONA. MONA has been filed for the last 22 years, and its goal is to add that a person cannot be discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity to the state’s existing definition of discrimination.
Razer, who came out as gay when he was 20, said he thinks one of the major issues with these anti-LGBTQ bills is that they are being proposed by people who don’t really understand the issues they are dealing with.
“We can’t expect our colleagues to understand the nuances of being transgender overnight,” he said. “I hope what we can do is help a majority of the majority party realize that before we go amending the state constitution, maybe we need to understand the issue we are dealing with.”