Gay rights have been in the headlines in a big way the last few years, and not for a good reason. Conservative activists have been seeking ways to criminalize the very act of existing and supporting the LGBTQ+ community, and unfortunately, in many ways, they are succeeding.

Gay Rights Under Attack

Gay rights have been under attack from conservative individuals in America for as long as America has existed as a country. Pride parades are a result of the Stonewall Riots of the 1960’s, where transgender people of color, gays, and drag queens marched for their right to exist in their own private spaces, free of judgement.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Legal and social rights for LGBTQIA+ Americans have been slow, and hard won. The last major win for the gay community was the Obergefell Supreme Court ruling that allowed gay marriage nationwide. Unfortunately, since then, things have not been smooth sailing.

Trump Polarizing America

Donald Trump’s presidency leaned into religious and political extremism in a big way, and the rhetoric that he espoused both during his presidency and in the years since has allowed for a significant amount of backlash to rise against vulnerable communities.

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Various communities have been subject to this new hatred, including Asian-Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic, Mexicans due to the ongoing border crisis, and most recently and publicly, transgender individuals in America.

Transgender: A Brief Summary

Simply speaking, individuals who are transgender identify as a different gender than the sex that they were assigned at birth. This often results in a social transition that allows them to live a more authentic life to who they feel they are; this could be as simple as going by a new name and changing the clothes they wear, or as elaborate as undergoing sex reassignment surgery.

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While gender itself is a social construct and genetic sex is far more complicated than many people want to believe or educate themselves on, there are many individuals that see transgender people as “abominations.” They believe – often coming from a religious or spiritual perspective – that changing something so fundamental about your person as your gender or sex goes against nature.

State Legislation Being Passed

This viewpoint, as closed-minded as it is, has led to significant legislation being written and passed across the country over the last several years. Rhetoric against transgender individuals in particular has significantly increased since Donald Trump left office, which has resulted in some truly significant changes.

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Across the country, various conservative state legislatures and Supreme Courts have been going out of their way to criminalize various ways of existing and living for transgender people. In Florida, multiple laws have been passed that target the trans community, with the most recent law passed banning trans individuals from changing their gender marker on their driver’s license.

Other Anti-Trans Legislation

Florida is far from the only state that has passed anti-trans laws recently, though. Many of the laws that are being passed address the issue peripherally, rather than coming out and criminalizing the act of being transgender altogether. That doesn’t make any of these new laws any less insidious or harmful, though.

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In Missouri, a new law that’s been proposed in the state legislature is particularly horrifying. The proposed legislation would, if passed, allow for teachers who support transgender students in any way to be imprisoned and charged with a felony.

A Missouri Bill About Social Transition

Representative Jamie Ray Gragg is the conservative rep who proposed House Bill 2885. The bill specifically refers to teachers who support a student’s social transition, rather than a physical one, in order to differentiate from other bills that have been passed targeting doctors who provide hormone therapy and counseling to transgender teenagers.

Source: Facebook/Jamie Ray Gragg – State Representative

Social transition is merely the act of recognizing the way that a student would like to present themselves in public. For context, cisgender students engage in social transition with new nicknames and hairstyles often, but they’re not criminalized for it, nor are teachers for recognizing how a student is most comfortable being seen.

Criminalizing Teacher Support

That fact is what makes this new bill particularly upsetting, not only for trans individuals but also teachers and those who support them. Essentially, it makes it a felony for teachers to support their students, because bills of this nature often have a wide-ranging effect far beyond what is initially claimed as the reason.

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When asked about the reasoning behind the bill, Gragg stated that the bill was filed to “protect kids, families, and teachers.” He went on, “Education begins at home, and it’s time for the few liberal activists who’ve infiltrated the education system to stop interfering in the relationships between parents and their children.”

“Focus on Teaching”

The bill specifically criminalizes teachers who provide support, be that material, information, or resources that support a student’s social transition. Teachers could face a $10,000 fine, imprisonment, and could be forced to register on the national sex offender registry as a result of this support.

Source: Facebook

Grabb finished his statement regarding the bill by stating, “We need to make sure our teachers, those who spend their lives helping our children grow and prepare for the world, can focus on teaching. HB 2885 does just that.”

Immediate Backlash on Twitter

The bill drew immediate pushback online, particularly on X, formerly known as Twitter. Jess Piper, the executive director of Blue Missouri, posted, “Missouri GOP bill would require teachers to register as sex offenders if they support trans students…Read that again. Teachers will be charged with a felony if they support their students.”

Source: X/CryptoSignalsU

Erin Reed, a journalist, posted, “A new bill in Missouri would put teachers on the sex offense registry if they ‘contribute to social transition’ of a trans youth.”

Varying Opinions on the Bill

Proponents of the bill, and others like it, have stated that transgender individuals should not be allowed to transition until they are adults. This has led to bills such as the one passed in Florida which prevented doctors from prescribing hormone treatments to individuals under the age of eighteen.

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Critics of these bills emphasize the fact that many of these bills are gratuitous and unnecessarily cruel, and demonize a demographic that is already unfairly targeted and at higher risk of injury and death from hate crimes. Additionally, critics of trans bans point out that transgender healthcare often creates better mental health outcomes for trans youth, and that preventing this care could increase teenage suicide rates among trans youth.

An Unclear Path Forward

It’s not clear at this point whether the bill has the support necessary to pass in the Missouri House, but the fact that it was introduced at all is still cause for concern. It highlights the extreme efforts that are being made to criminalize transgender individuals in America right now, and the dire consequences that some people are facing.

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Additionally, it’s not the only anti-trans piece of legislation that has been passed in Missouri this year. According to the ACLU, at least 35 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced in Missouri so far in 2024.

Missouri Is Not Alone

Missouri isn’t alone in the passing of these anti-trans and anti-gay legislative acts either. The ACLU has tracked at least 471 anti-LGBTQ+ bills that have been introduced or passed during the 2024 legislative year.

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This marks a significant increase in the amount of anti-gay legislation that conservatives are trying to pass into law. Many of these laws are written with an agenda in mind, notably to gain the support of far-right conservative groups such as Moms For Liberty, and many LGBTQ+ allies believe that transgender rights are only the beginning of the conversation.

A Fight Going Forward

Bills like the one passed in Missouri pose a dire threat not only to individuals who identify as transgender, but anyone who supports them. Teachers being criminalized for supporting their students is a drastic and terrifying step for many who believe in progressivism, and activists are gearing up for a fight back.

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Unfortunately, this is likely only the beginning. While many state Supreme Courts have ruled in favor of trans rights when bills have come up in the past, it’s not a guarantee that that will continue. The only way forward is through, and many activists are ready to stand up for transgender youth and adults to help them live their best, most authentic lives.