I’m a trans teen in Missouri. Why is the state trying to take away my healthcare? | Chelsea Freels

According to a Washington Post-KFF poll, only 43% of cisgender people (a person whose gender identity aligns with their assigned sex at birth) know a transgender person, so allow me to introduce myself.

My name is Chelsea Freels and I use she/her pronouns. I’m a transgender junior at Clayton high school in Missouri. I love learning about psychology, computer science, and political and queer theory. After the pandemic relinquished its grip enough to open schools, I joined and have helped lead the business and media side of Clayton high school’s first robotics team. (Go RoboHounds!)

Two years ago, I started coming out to my peers as Chelsea. While I started by coming out first to my transgender friends, I eventually came out to my robotics team and the rest of the school shortly after. In the same timeframe, I started seeing an endocrinologist at the Washington University Transgender Center to explore the implications of beginning gender-affirming healthcare. During my time at Washington University’s clinic, I learned about the benefits and risks of medically transitioning in great detail.

Since medically transitioning I’ve never been happier. I’ve recovered from my gender dysphoria-fueled depression and made more friends than ever before. Additionally, I’ve been able to do well in difficult classes and starting gender-affirming care felt like replacing an underlying sense of dread with hope for the future. Due to gender-affirming care, I’m able to see a future with me in it.

However, those hopes were spoiled earlier this year when Missouri’s state government decided transgender kids had too many rights. In service of that cruel objective, the Missouri state senator Mike Moon introduced senate bill 49, while Missouri’s unelected attorney general, Andrew Bailey, introduced the most extreme gender-affirming healthcare ban in the country via an “emergency rule”.

Of the duo’s governmental policies, Moon’s SB 49 appears the most likely to carry the force of law. SB 49, misleadingly titled the Save Adolescents from Experimentation Act, bars all gender-affirming healthcare for minors who haven’t started treatment by 28 August. While the passage of this bill wouldn’t affect me, it would affect my partner and many of my transgender friends who planned to start hormone replacement therapy (colloquially known as HRT) soon.

This bill seems designed to appear moderate, in comparison with its other proposed versions, to secure passage. While SB 49’s long list of siblings has been so extreme as to criminalize supportive parents, it’s worth noting that taking away essential healthcare is never an exercise in moderation.

Bailey’s emergency regulation is a two-faced exercise in evil, simultaneously claiming that “individuals of any age experiencing gender dysphoria or related conditions should be able to and are able to obtain care in Missouri” and placing un-passable roadblocks, like requiring over 18 months of therapist visits.

For reference, the attorney general’s order only lasts for another 274 days, less than half of the 18 months of therapy required. Even the most “humane” part of this order, the provision that allows people already on gender-affirming healthcare to continue their care, is fatally flawed, given the requirement to “promptly” comply with his order.

While both SB 49 and the attorney general’s order are terrifying to be on the wrong end of, the attorney general’s rule evokes a unique sense of horror. Until recently, the light for Missouri’s transgender minors has been the candles on an 18th birthday cake. “I can finally start HRT,” my partner said as they told me about their plans for when they turn 18. However, the order attempts to snuff those candles out by instituting a healthcare ban on every transgender person, regardless of their age.

Even though Bailey, Moon and their associated conspirators continue trying to remove transgender people from this world, they are certainly doomed to fail. When I talk to transgender kids at Clayton, I can see the terror and anger radiate from their eyes, but I can also see an overpowering sense of joy. Joy for being accepted by their peers, joy for the community we’ve found. Something deep inside knows that things are going to turn out OK for us.

For my part, I can say that Moon has (inadvertently) started a queer relationship. I met my partner (who is nonbinary) inside the Capitol, fighting with them against some of SB 49’s impersonators. My partner is extremely smart, strong and gives the best hugs. When I see their face, I know we’re going to win this fight. We may not win today’s battle for gender-affirming healthcare in Missouri, but the forces of love will encroach on the Missouri state capitol as the days fall into years.

If you want to help our cause, please love and respect the trans people in your life. We could all use it.

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