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MU student fears potential law banning gender-affirming care for minors is just the beginning

By Reyna Katko

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    COLUMBIA, Missouri (KOMU) — Transgender minors in the state could no longer have access to gender-affirming care under a bill the GOP-led House passed Wednesday. This would include blocking access to hormones, puberty blockers and gender-affirming surgery.

“They’re trying to ban something that they don’t understand,” MU student Mal Shashikant said.

Shashikant came to Columbia to study animal sciences at MU. However, the city has also served as a safe haven for Shashikant to explore their identity.

“I realized I was queer in middle school,” Shashikant said. “But there was no safe place to explore my identity until I came here.”

Although the bill does not directly impact Shashikant due to their age, they believe it’s a step backwards for the whole LGBTQ+ community.

Shashikant said that they feel more safe with easy access to gender-affirming resources, and that they finally feel comfortable enough to stop using she/her pronouns.

“I walked into a room full of people, and the first thing they asked for were my pronouns,” Shashikant said. “It was so cool to see people who were openly trans and openly gay. Nobody was questioning them.”

This came at a crucial time for Shashikant.

“If I’m being perfectly honest, I’m not sure I would still be here without this safe space,” Shashikant said.

That’s why Shashikant believes it’s risky to shut down LGBTQ+ youth’s exploration of who they are.

“We’re left feeling like we’re wrong,” Shashikant said. “With nowhere to go, those feelings build up. That’s dangerous.”

With Missouri lawmakers approving bills to ban gender-affirming health care for minors, Shashikant said they’re afraid this will be the stepping stone government officials need to ban more intense gender-affirming care down the road.

“Gender-affirming health care for a child is therapy,” Shashikant said. “If they can do this, what’s stopping them from banning gender-affirming health care for adults?”

Attorney General Andrew Bailey has done just that with proposed regulations on gender-affirming care for minors and adults. The rule would ban any use of hormone replacement therapy drugs (HRTs), such as puberty blockers and sex hormones. A judge issued a temporary restraining order on the rule until at least July 24.

This comes as Columbia officials and nearly a dozen organizations gathered Wednesday to spread awareness for Children’s Mental Health Week (CMHW).

“Children are good at hiding what they’re going through,” Fourth Ward city council member Nick Foster said. “One in five kids deal with mental health issues.”

That number is even higher for transgender youth. Despite this, Heather Harlan, Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services health educator, said there aren’t any specific resources highlighted during CMHW for transgender children or youth.

“Our community is still learning how to best recognize and meet the needs of trans and LGBTQ individuals,” Harlan said.

Because of this, Shashikant said they consider themself lucky because they feel “moderately comfortable” in their body as is.

“In a perfect world, gender-affirming care for me would be getting top surgery,” Shashikant said. “And then seeing the rest of my community get whatever they needed to make them feel like their bodies are their own.”

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