Voices from the Protest for Trans Rights: 'This is harmful. It's going to hurt people. It's going to hurt kids.'
The American Civil Liberties Union is currently tracking 48 anti-LGBTQ+ bills in Missouri’s legislature – some of which target transgender youth and their ability to access gender-affirming care or participate in school sports.
Both bills have passed the Senate and now go to the House.
In late March, hundreds of people from across the state gathered at the state capital in Jefferson City for the "Protest for Trans Rights" organized by PROMO, a statewide LGBTQIA+ advocacy group.
Here are the voices of some of those who gathered.
Amelia and Cary Goldwasser, St. Louis
Amelia: In the past two months, all across the country, 400 bills have been introduced against transgender rights. And it is making me begin to lose faith in my government. And so I am here during the school day at my state's capitol to protest that.
They would get rid of life saving medicine. I am a cancer survivor, and if I did not have the medicine for cancer, I would not be here today. If I did not have the medicine to be who I am, I would also not be here today.
Cary: I love my daughter, and I will do anything to support her. She mentioned that she is a cancer survivor, and, you know, one of the things that I keep thinking about is that, you know, we had access to life saving medication when she was diagnosed with leukemia.
And now that we've gone through this process, and she came out to us and said she's trans, and we said, “You know what, let's get you to doctors and make sure that this is all cool,” and now the doctors are diagnosing medication for her.
And I just want to keep our, you know, medical processes and what we're doing between us. So, that's why I'm here to support her because honestly, you know, I didn't go through three and a half years of cancer treatment with my daughter so that people in the middle of Missouri could deny her more access to health care.
Amelia: Those who are trying to get rid of our medical rights, while we may be kids now, while we may be not able to vote, now, we are growing up and we will be able to vote them out of office, because they do not care about us individually. They care about the politics; they have never cared about us. They only care that trans people are more oppressed.
The Frederick Family: Brittany, Briana, Krystina, Santi & AJ, Columbia
Brittany: We’re here because it directly affects our own family, and we just need to make sure that it's known how many people this is affecting and how it's not something that was just – I feel like it's just not something that someone's really thinking clearly in terms of what healthcare is, and what gender affirming healthcare is, and the fact that those two things are identical.
You wouldn't tell someone that they can't go to the doctor for getting their, you know, treatment for cancer, or whatever it is. So, this is the same thing. It's just health care.
And so, to tell someone, they can't go and get the health care they need, and especially youth is that I don't understand, because getting ahead of it when they're young, is really important. Because you can prevent that development, and taking blockers can help you.
So like, your daughter taking blockers will prevent that physical change into a man. Like why would your daughter want to look like a man? And catching that very young is really important.
And I think it's pretty easy for people to sit around in some offices and make decisions when they don't have children themselves that are having to deal with this, or they don't know someone directly. And they need to see all these numbers and see that this is real, and we're real people and this these are families.
What are we supposed to? You tell me I can't take my child to the doctor to get the care that they need? Where am I supposed to go? You know, and why am I being forced to leave the state?
AJ: I'm here because this is affecting me straight on. I'm the only one of [my family], but they're all here to support me. I'm just here because if this actually does happen, then we're gonna have to straight up just move.
I would say that, like, “Okay, so you have cancer, right, and then you need your care.” But they're saying, “Oh, you can't have your care at all, you just have to deal with it and die.” Like and that's basically what's happening here today at this logos thing, because then you just have to become a man even though no one you don't actually arm it. You're not a man. And yet just straight up becoming.
Amariah Hardwick, St. Louis
The reason why I definitely felt that it was essential for me to come here along with my sister is because there is little to no black trans representation.
So, if there's any opportunity that's given to me, I'm there like Johnny on the Spot, because often cis white people, cis het white people don't offer that space to us.
So, I just seized the moment and make sure that I'm heard in those spaces, and also to make room for other ladies, the youth – specifically black trans youth.
Alleria Stanley, Veteran, Waynesville
The cities – St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield, Columbia, they're well represented, and it's not that they don't still have a fight – they absolutely do, but there's a strong community.
But out in the rural areas it’s very, very hard to find someone else like you, to find a family like you, to feel the courage to go and say, “I'm queer, I'm trans.”
They're hurting people. This is harmful, and it's going to hurt people, it's going to hurt kids… In the Army, we always talked about during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that we were fighting over there so we wouldn't have to fight back home, and here I am back home – having to do the fight here.
Trust us as parents – that we want the very best. When my kids came out, of course, I had questions and I'm transgender, but that doesn't make it automatically easy being a trans parent. Of course I had questions, and I went to the experts because I'm a trans person, but that doesn't make me a trans expert on trans-pediatric care. Of course not.
So, I went to the experts, and I trusted them… where they have standards of care, where they have tons of training, where this is what they do. And I went out and I reached out to them, and I said, “Help me and help my kid,” so that we can make sure we have the best possible outcome and guide them through this and help them just like I would with any other challenges as my child grows up.
Kendall Martinez-Wright, PROMO Board Member, from Palmyra
It is [a] very difficult time. To the children who are trans or even questioning whether or not they are trans, you too deserve happiness, love. You are able to succeed and thrive as your authentic selves.
As you are living authentically, just remember you are deserving to have a pivotal voice at the table – no piece of legislation, no elected official, no geographic or regional boundary can deter that from you or take that away.
As we are gathered here in this moment – specifically to the allies who here – lift up your trans sibling to the max – specifically black, brown, indigenous trans folk. Trans women. Trans fem.
Let it be known for days, weeks, months, possibly years to come – we will be in this fight, but at the end of the day, joy comes in the morning, and we will win.
Merrique Jenson – Founder and Executive Director of Transformations, Kansas City
I appreciate the sentiment to have a bunch of allies here talking about how you support us, but frankly, I want to f**king hear from my community, not a bunch of white men. I'm not sure if you're aware – we've heard this over and over – but black and brown trans women, and in particular, black trans women are at the epicenter of violence and murder in Missouri.
Where are the resources for black trans women? Where are the resources for black and brown trans women? Do y'all know the resources? There are none.
"When these bills pass, we know that it's gonna be black and brown trans girls who will be attacked, who will be murdered, who will be shot, who will be beat up walking to QuikTrip."Merrique Jenson, Transformations
We have our elders who often feel unsafe or have gone underground or who have been supported by the community. So, often when we're murdered or when violence happens to us – there's no one there to advocate for us. There's no one there who will speak up and provide a plethora of resources.
Our younger selves – trans kids of color, specifically trans girls of color will be at the epicenter of cool is impacted with these bills pass. I want to be clear – all trans youth deserve love and respect. Every single beautiful young white trans kid here, you deserve nothing but greatness.
But unfortunately, when these bills pass, we know that it's gonna be black and brown trans girls who will be attacked, who will be murdered, who will be shot, who will be beat up walking to QuikTrip.
As a leader of the only statewide trans organization in Missouri, for folks who are white or cisgender – please stop using a one size fits all model to talk about trans people. I get the well intentions, but when I look around those signs should say “Protect trans girls.” They should say protect “Trans girls of color.” That is what they should be saying.
Your children have badass parents here right now, we often were not afforded the same privilege for a whole variety of systemic violence.
Let’s be clear here – a lot of the conversation is also about gender affirming care, but while medically regulated, gender affirming care is important and should be a right for all youth, we know that trans women of color were the pioneers of gender affirming care that was underground and that was not regulated.
So, your kids will be okay. There are other options – whether or not the state says your children have the right to have that. That is one of the beauties of being a trans person of color.
That is one of the beauties of being a doll that is highly detailed work. The beauty of doing this is that we know where to find that, and you all can go ahead and learn from us and listen to us – but stop talking for us.
Ella Mauzey, 17, with PFLAG of the Central Region
I'm a trans girl, and I'm scared.
This bill is another steppingstone for the reason trans people are attacked and murdered – trans women of color are targeted every single day for hate crimes and murder. This bill is a crisis.
I'm urging and begging anyone to use their privilege that they have to fight for the kids that we have already lost and others who are at risk. I'm beyond outrage that me my friends, my family and allies have fought so hard and so long for the rights of trans youth after me, and the government thinks that they can take it away.
I'm still so young. I still have my whole life ahead of me. The state of Missouri is trying to criminalize the lifesaving path that I took. It is everyone's time right now to stand up for these kids.
Michaela Joy - Metro Trans Umbrella group, St. Louis
As a trans person, trans woman, a Fiipinx American, I came out in my 30s. I look good because of estrogen and Filipino, but I went and I met a bunch of trans youth the other day, and you know what they said? They said,” We didn't know trans people live that long.”
And I'm sure for all your trans people out there, you know, that darkness. We can talk all day about statistics and sh*t, they don't care. They wouldn't be passing this legislation if they cared about the blood they're going to have on their hands.
"The sh*t that we’ve gone through, this pressure they're putting on us – we're f**king diamonds."Michaela Joy, Metro Trans Umbrella Group
We've been to the darkest places. We know our friends, our family who have also been to those places. I guarantee you – as trans people out there – you know people who have died because of this with the suicide rates of what they're at.
They're going to push this legislation forward, not just in Missouri, but across the country, across the Midwest. Is this abdication of responsibility or just hate? What's happening here?
Sure, I’m f**king pissed. As trans people, we know the costs of unsupportive families. We know the pain of losing hope. But we also know resilience. We continue on despite the barriers, the harmful rhetoric.
I meet so many trans people at Metro Trans Umbrella group through the community, just by being a physical trans person out in the world, and I can't tell you how many of you all don't realize how strong you are as trans people. how resilient you are. The sh*t that we’ve gone through, this pressure they're putting on us – we're f**king diamonds.
Ben Greene, PFLAG of Greater St. Louis
I am a transgender adult. I grew up. You can grow up. As a trans kid, I spent years with a blank spot where my future was supposed to be. As a trans adult, everything I do is to show trans kids that it's possible to grow up and to build a world where I know for a fact that that is true.
Every single trans kid deserves to grow up. Every single trans adult deserves to grow old. Every single trans elder deserves to be celebrated. That is what they're afraid of in there. But when they fight for radical erasure, we fight back with radical existence. We fight back with radical community with radical care.
We are so far past “How are you?” Radical care is “What do you need?” Radical care is “Have you eaten today?” Radical care is “Are you making rent this month?” Radical care means that I will give everything I have to my community because no one else is coming to save us.
Logan Casey, Movement Advancement Project
We win so much more than we lose, and even when we lose on specific bills – as our own Sen. Razer has said on the floor – we have never lost the larger war because even when a bad bill becomes law, that is not the end of our fight.
"No matter what happens next, we will do what we need to do and build what we need to build to take care of each other and meet our own needs."Logan Casey, Movement Advancement Project
Just as we have in the past, we will fight with every tool that we have, whether in courtrooms and lawsuits, in legislatures, at the voting booth, in conversations with family and neighbors and coworkers – we will keep fighting.
No matter what happens next, we will do what we need to do and build what we need to build to take care of each other and meet our own needs. Our community knows how to do this. We have done it before, and we will do it again. We are all part of something so much larger than this moment. We are part of a community with a history and a lineage and an inheritance. We know how to fight and to survive even though we shouldn't have to.
And yes, we also know how to find joy and freedom and abundance in a world that wants to deny us. We have done this for decades, if not centuries, and we will keep doing it.