After MU Health Care Decision, hundreds rally in support of transgender minors
Chants of “ M-I-Z-Z-O-U. When trans kids die, the blood's on you,” and “No hate, no fear, trans kids are welcome here” echoed throughout the University of Missouri campus and downtown Columbia last week as hundreds marched in protest of a recent MU Health Care decision that has left transgender minors cut off from some gender-affirming care.
Under a new Missouri law, which went into effect on August 28th, minors who were already in care were supposed to be able to retain care through a grandfather clause.
But MU Health Care notified minor patients and their families days and, in some cases, hours before the new law went into effect that due to the “significant legal liability” under the new law – including a longer statute of limitations, higher minimum damages and threats to providers’ medical licenses – cross-sex hormones and puberty blockers would be unable to any minors.
May Hall, a non-binary transwoman, led the protest. She’s a double major in anthropology and political science, with a minor in art at Mizzou.
She used a handheld bullhorn to share some of her thoughts and introduce the numerous speakers that stood on the steps of Jesse Hall. Many of the speakers were transgender themselves and spoke about the impact of gender-affirming care on their lives.
May Hall: The average lifespan for a trans person is 30, and it's not because the health care is dangerous, but it's because when you live in a society that's constantly telling you that “you're wrong, that “you're gross” that “no one will ever love you” – you start to believe it.
I think we need to work on really treating the people in our community better, and I think that's kind of what we're all here for today. Obviously, against the decision by MU Health Care, but also in support of our community and out of love for the people in our community – and these kids.
After about an hour of speakers, which included parents, advocates, and young transgender people, the organizers asked people to line up along the sidewalk in front of Jesse Hall in preparation of a march to Columbia City Hall through downtown. Hall and other organizers waited as the line snaked around a good portion of the Quad and began to lead the group in protest chants.
“Trans rights are? Human rights.”
Once they reached the steps of City Hall, more speakers stood at the foot of the stairs – with hundreds gathered around, waiting and listening.
Jay Castilow stepped forward.
He’s a 17-year-old high school student, as well as a transman. He is being directly impacted by the decision made by MU Health Care. He said that he had been in treatment for several years, which led him and his family to believe that he was safe and that his care was ensured.
Jay Castilow: Emotions are something that we need to be appealing to right now because that's what these lawmakers are doing. They're just using their emotions of hatred and rage against this group of people to create laws and policies that are destroying them.
So, we have to stand here, we have to be mad back, and we have to say, “This is not what we want. This is not what we want. We want health care, we want the rights to our own bodies, and we think kids deserve that.”
Several others spoke at the doors of City Hall, including Justice Horn. He’s the Chair of the LGBTQ Commission for the City of Kansas City, MO, and was instrumental in the passage of a “sanctuary city” resolution, which protects people seeking or providing gender-affirming care – in opposition of Missouri state law.
Soon after, the crowd began the walk back to Jesse Hall - chanting as they went. Among them was Dex Smith.
Dex Smith: It’s unfortunate because I have a little brother and he's 10, and I don't want him growing up in a world where he is taught to hate and fear who he could be… and that shouldn't be the case. That shouldn't be the case for any kid.
And so, I'm out here today in support of just letting kids be kids and letting them be who they want to be – without anyone trying to stop them.
As the sun lowered, people crowded around the steps of Jesse Hall to hear the last few speakers and reflect on the stories they had heard over the last few hours.
Mel Tully is a 21-year-old transwoman, as well as a senior at Mizzou majoring in computer science. She’s the Chair of the Mizzou Young Democratic Socialists of America – the group that organized the event.
Tully said MU Health Care’s decision hit her hard because Mizzou – for them – had been the place where they began getting their gender-affirming care.
Mel Tully: I know so many trans people on campus… I have a lot of important trans people in my life and in my community, and I want them to have the same resources. I want them to have the same access to stuff.
Even if I'm tired now, I would say – I don't know, I'm really inspired. I'm really hopeful. I’m going to celebrate with some friends and get a good night's rest, and then, you know, we're gonna see where we are and keep fighting. I think we're in a good spot.