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The Normal Lives of Trans Kids in Missouri 

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Bogard also wasn't the only father to bare his feelings for legislative committees in March. Days earlier, during a hearing on a bill seeking to restrict trans athletes, Brandon Boulware, a Kansas City-area attorney, told lawmakers how he had had first rejected his daughter's transition and forced her to wear boy's clothes and play on a boys sports team — until the moment he realized that his child was miserable and deteriorating before his eyes, and that his attempt to correct her life "was teaching her to deny who she is."

A clip of Boulware's testimony was shared by the American Civil Liberties Union and soon went viral, racking up millions of views and drawing coverage in national outlets.

The video was inspiring; Bogard doesn't dispute that. But he points out that, for trans families, these moments come at the cost of unveiling yourself, and your deepest hurts, before a committee of strangers — including lawmakers who view you as a child abuser.

Rabbi Daniel Bogard, seen here in a March 10 selfie in the Missouri State Capitol, says testifying against anti-trans bills has forced kids and families to reveal private, painful moments. - DANIEL BOGARD
  • DANIEL BOGARD
  • Rabbi Daniel Bogard, seen here in a March 10 selfie in the Missouri State Capitol, says testifying against anti-trans bills has forced kids and families to reveal private, painful moments.

"These stories of my child's journey through gender — these are personal, private, intimate, vulnerable things that we're being forced to share," Bogard tells the RFT in a recent interview. He notes that when he first testified against an anti-trans bill in 2020, his child had just come out.

"The very first people we told, literally the very first outside of family, were the people in that hearing room in Jefferson City."

One year later, Bogard concluded his March 10 testimony begging the committee members to vote against the bill banning trans medical care. Citing the high suicide rates of trans teens, he explained that puberty blockers are "life-preserving."

"Let these kids put off these hard, life-altering decisions until they are older, so I beg you," he continued. "I don't know how else to say it, I beg you — please don't make my child and their health care a topic for debate in the state."

But there is no debate — at least, there shouldn't be. Among those testifying against the bill were two doctors from St. Louis Children's Hospital. They pointed out that hormone treatments for trans children are carefully conducted over a span of years and, importantly, that puberty blockers are reversible. That was in contrast to claims by the bill's sponsor, Republican Representative Suzie Pollock, that hormone treatments "permanently and prematurely medicalizes children for a condition that overwhelmingly resolves or desists by adulthood."

Rep. Suzie Pollock says she introduced a bill to block medical care for trans kids "out of love." - SCREENSHOT
  • SCREENSHOT
  • Rep. Suzie Pollock says she introduced a bill to block medical care for trans kids "out of love."

Pollock had appeared in the hearing only briefly, at the beginning of the 8 a.m. session, just long enough to deliver a twenty-minute presentation before leaving for other appointments, never to return.

Before her exit, she had defended her bill by claiming, without evidence, that the parents of trans children seeking hormone treatments are being "threatened," as the kids are "being told that if this is what they want, they need to tell [their parents] they're going to commit suicide."

At another point in her presentation, Pollock argued that "children have developing brains" and "don't grasp long-term consequences." Under questioning by committee members, she insisted that she had filed the bill not out of an intent to discriminate, but "out of love."

"I guarantee you," she said, "if this bill passes there will be children who will become adults and will thank me."

The bill didn't pass.

After an hour of playtime in the yard, the boys are called back to their parents. "Conor," who is ten, had traveled with his mother in 2020 to testify against that year's anti-trans bills. His best friend, "Aiden," who is not trans, had been invited to come along. (At the request of the parents, all names of children have been changed for this story.)

Before the trip to Jefferson City, Aiden and Conor had been friends for several years. They had already been teammates on a coed sports team in a private league. Aiden says he remembers worrying that the law would separate them in the future.

"I did not want him to be on the girl's baseball team," he explains now. "I wanted him to be on my baseball team. I wanted to be with my friend."

Aiden says he wants to show me something, and disappears inside the house. When he returns, he's carrying a framed sheet of paper containing the handwritten notes for his testimony against the anti-trans-athlete bills in 2020: He had covered the page's borders with wiry illustrations of basketballs and footballs. In a child's block letters, he had written that the bills were "NON FAIR" and that "a team means working together with everyone on the team."

In 2020, at age eight, "Aiden" wrote notes as he prepared to testify against anti-trans legislation. - DANNY WICENTOWSKI
  • DANNY WICENTOWSKI
  • In 2020, at age eight, "Aiden" wrote notes as he prepared to testify against anti-trans legislation.

From another chair, "Chase," who is eight, interjects to mention that his classmates often debate whether boys are stronger than girls. This sparks an immediate group discussion between the four friends.

"It's not true," Chase explains confidently. "Some people think boys are stronger than girls, but sometimes actually the girl is stronger than the boy. But girls are not stronger than boys. Strongness isn't with gender — just because boys are built different than girls, that doesn't affect the strongness."

Conor, the oldest of the group, has been playing with a Rubik's Cube throughout most of the group interview. He perks up.

"Even if it was true that boys are stronger than girls," he offers, "if you wanted to be on a sports team, you're going to practice anyway. If you're practicing hard enough, you can be stronger than them."

Chase agrees. "I'm one of the strongest kids in my class, and I was a girl before. So, it doesn't matter if you were a girl or a boy."

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