In a recent debate on the Missouri House floor, state Rep. Peter Meredith (D) told House Majority Leader Jonathan Patterson (R) that Republican book-banning efforts resemble Nazi book burning. Meredith also explained why the state’s recently passed bans on transgender athletes and gender-affirming care — which includes bans on puberty blockers and hormone replacement therapy — discriminate against a large swath of non-trans people.
A video of their exchange begins with Meredith notifying Patterson that the first documented Nazi book burning occurred in 1933. In that incident, fascists burned a medical library of books on sexuality and gender maintained by Magnus Hirschfeld, a doctor who ran the world’s first-known clinic to offer gender-affirming surgeries.
The state’s head legal officer doesn’t seem to know the difference between criminal and civil penalties.
“They burned the entire library saying that it was sexually explicit material and then executed half the people involved,” Meredith told Patterson. “Because first, they came for the trans kids. Do you want this to be your legacy as the floor leader of the House?”
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Meredith then pointed out to Patterson, who is a medical doctor with a private surgery practice, that 1.7% of all people are born intersex. This includes people who are born with any number of chromosomal, gonadal, hormonal, or genital features that cause their bodies to physically manifest some combination of stereotypically male or female biological features. Some people can be intersex and not know it.
When Meredith asks Patterson what a girl is, Patterson says it’s someone with “female organs,” “female characteristics,” and “XX chromosomes.” Meredith then points out that one in 80,000 people is born with Swyre syndrome — a condition that Patterson said he was unfamiliar with. People with Swyre syndrome are born with XY chromosomes, but exhibit a female anatomy.
“Most of those kids are born, and their birth certificate will say they’re female because they exhibit female anatomy. They identify as female,” Meredith explained. “But at puberty, their body starts changing and looks more and more like a male unless they take puberty blockers, which would be banned by the last bill. So a girl that’s born with an XY chromosome, but starts to look like a boy because we forced her to, where is she going to play sports?”
Patterson answers, “I don’t know,” and adds, “No bill is a perfect bill.”
Meredith then points out that the 1.7% of people who are intersex is the same percentage of people who have red hair, meaning that it’s a large enough population to make sure not to discriminate against.
“This bill takes a completely blanket approach and says that girl, whose body is now becoming a male body, she’s gonna have to play on the girls’ team, and she’s gonna have to become physically a boy. Aren’t you creating exactly the problem with this blanket policy that you and the bill sponsor talked about wanting to prevent?” Meredith asks.
Meredith then points out that trans-inclusive politicians, advocacy groups, and the NCAA have all tried to handle “the medical and biological nuance of these questions… to make sure that the vast majority, actually all kids, are able to play in a fair environment.”
Patterson then incorrectly says that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) essentially bans trans women from competing because “you have to have started puberty blockers before puberty and to have a certain amount of testosterone” within the range of cisgender women. “There is nobody out there that would meet those requirements right now,” he claims.
“No,” Meredith disagrees. “They haven’t gotten to that point. The Olympics didn’t say ‘We’re limiting you to what your birth certificate says.’ The Olympics said, ‘Hey, let’s look at each sport. What are the things that make this most appropriate and fair so that everyone can compete?’ and … this bill doesn’t allow that. Hardly any women that could meet that [IOC criteria], yes. But there are some out there who could meet that.”
“This bill just ignores all of that nuance, all of that nuance that the experts — the medical community and the people that want fair sports — are actually working on, right?” Meredith continues. “Wouldn’t we be better off taking a nuanced approach that respects medical science and the experts in sports?”
Patterson then says that the upcoming Olympics will have no transgender swimmers. Meredith sighs and says that Patterson isn’t answering his question.
Near the start of May, Missouri passed two bills banning gender-affirming healthcare for minors and blocking trans female athletes from playing on any public and private schools’ girls’ and women’s sports teams in grades kindergarten through college. Gov. Mike Parson (R) is expected to sign the bills.
Patterson didn’t vote in support of the healthcare ban, saying that he could “see both sides” of the issue. However, he did support the trans athlete ban.
The ACLU of Missouri said the two measures amount to “weaponization of the government.” In February, the ACLU sued Missouri over its ban on “sexually explicit material” in schools, a law which has resulted in the removal of numerous LGBTQ+-themed books from schools. The ACLU also plans to sue over the state’s trans healthcare ban.