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story.lead_photo.caption Liv Paggiarino/News Tribune Corey Heyman, 15, speaks at ACLU and PROMO’s press conference on Wednesday condemning two pieces of House legislation being discussed at the Missouri State Capitol. Heyman, who identifies as transgender, said this is the second year in a row that he’s been at the Missouri State Capitol, speaking out at press conferences against such legislation. ”I shouldn’t have to be here braving COVID-19 and fighting for my basic human rights,” he said during the press conference. “I’m just as human as everyone else. I do not deserve to live in fear of having my rights taken from me.”

The anticipated early morning fight over House Bill 33 didn't develop because the bill was pulled from the House Children and Families Committee hearings schedule.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Suzie Pollock, R-Lebanon, would prohibit medical providers from administering any medical or surgical treatment for the purpose of reassignment for anyone younger than 18. If it were to become a law, any health professional who would provide the treatment would be subject to forfeiting their licenses if they provided the services. And, a case of child abuse against the parents would be reported to the Missouri Department of Social Services Children's Division.

Stephen Eisele, executive director of PROMO, a statewide Missouri organization advocating for LGBTQ equality through legislative action, electoral politics, grassroots organizing and community action, told more than 30 people gathered outside the state Capitol early Wednesday afternoon (about three hours after the hearing on the bill had been scheduled to start) that the organization wasn't going to stand by as lawmakers infringe on their personal rights.

"We're not going to stand for it. We're going to fight back," Eisele said. "And we're going to show up as many times and in as many places as we need to, to defeat these bills.

"What we saw this morning was just one example of our people showing up — and our leaders shaking a little bit," Eisele said.

The people standing in front of the Capitol for the news conference were not afraid to share their voices, supporting those who are most at-risk and in need in the LGBTQ community.

Rep. Keri Ingle, D-Lee's Summit, the ranking minority leader on the Children and Families Committee, told listeners the bill would be an archaic law and is an affront to parental rights in the state and to trans children seeking medically necessary procedures and medications that would make them feel whole and validate their identities.

"What we're seeing right now is the political tools being used to further oppress a marginalized group of people," Ingle said.

It is "absolutely disgusting" she continued, that their voices were not allowed to be heard during the morning hearing.

Rep. Ian Mackey, D-St. Louis, told the gathering that although he isn't on a committee that is to hear a handful of bills which would adversely affect the LGBTQ community, he belongs to that community.

However, he was on the Judiciary Committee last year, when it heard one of the bills.

"Because of the folks who came to Jefferson City, who sat around for hours waiting for the hearing to start, then sat around for hours during the hearing to talk for just a few minutes — many of whom are back today — they are the reason why that bill did not go any further than it did last year," Mackey said. "Folks who are willing to drive to Jefferson City — including in a pandemic, including the risk that poses to health and safety — that is absolutely critical."

And he understands it can be difficult for oppressed people to tell their stories, Mackey said.

"It's what gets the job done," Mackey said. "And these folks here are doing it today."

Among those who traveled to Jefferson City to testify was Corey Hyman, a 15-year-old transgender male, who made the trip for the second consecutive year.

Hyman said he shouldn't have to brave COVID-19 and travel to the Capitol but chose to because he is just like any other child. And other trans children deserve the same rights as other children.

"I want to stop this discrimination, and I want them to think about us and how we feel as human beings," Hyman said. "I encourage all of you to walk a mile in my shoes."

A hearing on House Joint Resolution 53, sponsored by Rep. Chuck Bayse, R-Rocheport, began shortly after the news conference outside the Capitol. Heard in the House Emerging Issues Committee, the proposed constitutional amendment would require students who participate in "sex-separated athletic contests only be allowed to participate in those for the biological sex found on the student's birth certificate," according to its summary.

Bayse argued that, biologically, girls would be at a disadvantage if they competed with transgender girls.

"To me, this is an issue of fairness," Bayse said.

He'd been asked why he would file a bill like HJR 53, Bayse continued.

"I think it's very damaging to young girls especially — there's been proven cases in the country where this has caused issues with young women being beat out by transgenders in sporting events," Bayse said. "And I don't think that is appropriate — to treat women, or young girls, and ladies in that manner after they work hard in a competitive sport."

Bayse and supporters of the bill pointed out that men are larger and stronger than women.

Rep. Mike Haffner, R-Pleasant Hill, who served as a commander in the U.S. Navy, asked Bayse, who served four years in the U.S. Marine Corps if it wasn't true that physical requirements for men was much more difficult for men than for women.

"The standards for physical fitness are markedly different," Bayse said and explained they are now pull-ups, push-ups and a 3-mile run. "On the running part of it, the minimum is 18 minutes for a 3-mile run. For women it is 21 minutes for the same distance."

Pull-ups are much different and are categorized by age.

Opponents to HJR 53 said high school athletics do not pit males against females and the Missouri State High School Activities Association has had a long-standing policy for dealing with transgender students.

Anneliese Schaefer, a scientist, said HJR 53 was a solution looking for a problem.

"My transgender daughter is now in her late teens. When she was in high school, she wanted to play high school sports," Schaefer said. "So, the school convened a meeting first with her; us, her parents; and high-level administrators of the school."

The point was to let the family know there was a process that was already in place. The policy was modeled after the NCAA policy, which had been in place for years.

"MSHSAA would not consider my daughter eligible until after she'd had one year of hormone therapy," Schaefer said.

She waited that year and submitted the required letters from medical doctors, psychologists, parents, the daughter, a family friend and the school. All was submitted by the school.

"The school supported us every step along the way," Schaefer said.

MSHSAA granted the request and the daughter played high school sports accepted and celebrated by her teams, coaches and the school.

Brandon Boulware said he has four children, including a "wonderful and beautiful" transgender daughter.

But early on, she was a child that did not smile.

Boulware oftentimes hears people say they don't understand, when transgender issues are discussed.

"I would expect some of you to have said that and feel the same way. I didn't get it either," he testified at the hearing. "For years, I didn't get it. For years, I would not let my daughter wear girl clothes or let my daughter play with girl toys."

He forced his daughter to cut her hair short and wear boy clothes, to play on boys sports teams. He thought he was protecting his child. But, he was also protecting himself.

"My child was miserable. I cannot overstate that. She was absolutely miserable — especially at school," Boulware said. "No confidence. No friends. No laughter."

For years, against the advice of teachers, therapists and other experts, they tried to make their child someone she wasn't.

The day things changed for him, he arrived home from work. His daughter and a brother were playing outside. She had put on one of her older sister's play dresses. She wanted to go across the street to play with other children.

"She asked me — if she went inside and put on 'boy clothes,' could she then go across the street and play," Boulware said. "Then it hit me that my daughter was equating being good with being someone else. I was teaching her to deny who she is."

The one thing parents cannot do is silence their child's spirit, he said.

"On that day, my wife and I stopped silencing our child's spirit," he said. "The moment we allowed my daughter to be who she is, to grow her hair, to wear the clothes she wanted to wear, she was a different child."

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