Missouri ban on gender-affirming care goes into effect

| Managing News Editor

Laws that restrict gender-affirming care in Missouri passed on August 28. Washington University has not yet released a public statement addressing the ban. Sam Powers | Student Life

Missouri laws SB39 and SB49 took effect this past Monday. Both are facing lawsuits from multiple organizations.

SB39 makes it illegal for students at all public, private, and charter schools to play sex-specific sports that do not match the gender they were assigned at birth. SB49 bans the new administration of “cross-sex hormones” or puberty-blocking drugs for minors, incarcerated people, and people who use Medicaid;  however, those who were receiving treatment before Aug. 28 remain eligible. 

Washington University professors with expertise in transgender studies believe that the ban will have a profound impact on both the university and the wider Missouri LGBTQ+ community. At the moment, the University has not released an official statement responding to the ban. Some students have reported feeling disheartened by the University administration’s lack of public acknowledgement.

Vice Chancellor for Marketing and Communications Julie Flory sent a statement about the ban to Student Life.

“[We] remain committed to providing compassionate, family-centered care to all of the patients and families we serve,” the University said. They said the Center has reviewed all allegations before determining that “physicians and staff have treated patients according to the existing standard of care.”

Sophomore Penny Thaman, co-president of Transcending Gender (TG), a student-run group that offers a safe space for individuals who wish to discuss and find support for their gender identity or expression, was one student disappointed by the University’s lack of public statement responding to the state ban. “I don’t feel like the administration is doing everything they could to really support trans rights,” she said. 

She was specifically upset with the fact that Chancellor Martin willingly let public officials investigate the WashU Trasngender Center (WUTC) earlier this year. 

The notion that this ban is a part of a larger political agenda is an opinion shared by multiple university professors, including Brown School Lecturer Elizabeth Fuch, who also serves on the University LGBTQ Council. Fuch believes there is a chance that full bans on gender-affirming care could pass into law in the future.

“Some entity is really interested in homogenizing further the United States,” she said.  

Fuch, who was a lobbyist for trans rights in Missouri, helped escort transgender children to the state capitol in an attempt to make politicians aware of who was affected by signing anti-trans legislation into law. 

Medical bans have a direct impact on Fuch’s students. She once saw one of her students coloring a protest sign which read “Hitler started with trans people too.” Fuch said that it was “the most surreal moment of [her] life.”

Brown School Professor Paz Galupo studies queer resilience and BIPOC members of the transgender community. When Galupo started at WashU earlier this semester, they were interested in seeing how many families with at least one LGBTQ+ member are leaving Missouri due to legislation like SB39 and SB49. 

Initially they thought it would be hard to find people who were fleeing – but it wasn’t. 

“You talk to anybody, you know, within the community and everybody has a story about people who are making these really heart-wrenching decisions for their family,” said Galupo.

Galupo believes that these families are choosing to leave because “they are not having any of their basic needs met,” and “can’t keep their kids safe.” 

Galupo sees laws like these, and the politicians who write them, as having the potential to fracture the LGBTQ+ community, and cause “lesbian and gay individuals [to] want to distance themselves from the trans community.”  

According to them, the politicians have been intentional in “isolating trans issues as if we’re not talking about human rights, and if we’re not talking about the right to autonomy of everybody’s body.”

One thing that has really stuck with Galupo is the fact that these transgender bans are actually passing in state legislatures. Assistant Professor of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Tamsin Kimoto spoke about the ban in Missouri specifically and said that other states are viewing it as a legal “litmus test.” 

Kimoto agrees with Galupo and sees the issue of transgender health as part of a larger medical and political debate. 

“I think what a lot of people have tended to miss in thinking about the political significance of something like Roe v. Wade is that it wasn’t just a landmark case for abortion. It was a landmark case for the right to privacy,” they said. 

Teaching Professor for Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Amy Eisen Cislo said that the part of SB49 that prohibits prisoners who weren’t receiving gender-affirming care before Aug. 28 from doing so now seemed like “cruel and unusual punishment” and a violation of Title IX. She described this ban as being the work of politicians pushing an agenda rather than doing what constituents actually want. 

“There are people who aren’t even sure what the legislature is trying to ban and some people are believing the false narrative… [that]trans and drag are all of these scary, evil, gender-bending bodily changes that disrupt normative society,” she said. 

She highlighted that knowing someone who is transgender can make “you just feel threatened by the legislation,” but that if someone knows nothing about transgender studies they could be more likely to believe “false narrative[s]” of politicians as facts. 

Looking ahead, Cislo has one message for all students, especially those concerned about this legislation. 

“Vote! Vote. That would be my message. Make sure you understand the issues and vote for people who will advocate for what you think best. If you don’t vote, you have no say,” she said. “And if enough people who care about LGBTQ+ rights care to elect representatives who have that same concern, we’re not going to be dealing with this.”

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