JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Just days after Gov. Mike Parson signed legislation into law aimed at transgender athletes and minors, a Missouri family is invited to a Pride Month celebration at the White House.
Later this summer, Missouri will officially join a handful of other states in banning gender-affirming care for minors and prohibiting transgender girl and women from playing on female sports teams. It’s because of those two laws a central Missouri family is packing up their belongings, selling their home and moving out west.
“We picked Colorado because it’s one of a few states that has enshrined protections for LGBTQ people and kids,” Katherine Sasser said Wednesday. “Playing sports is challenging to lose that, and it would be devastating to her, but when you talk about not being able to get medical care, it’s a life or death situation.”
In the coming weeks, Sasser and her family will be moving out of Missouri because of the recent legislation the governor signed, preventing her 11-year-old daughter O from receiving the gender-affirming care she needs.
“She’s not doing any medical interventions yet, so she would not fall under the grandfather clause of this law,” Sasser said. “She does get consultations because this is a very slow, thoughtful process that families go through to determine what kind of care a trans kid needs, but she wouldn’t be grandfathered in because she’s not getting any kind of medical interventions.”
The law states that transgender minors receiving care when the law goes into effect can continue to receive gender-affirming care can continue the process.
The other bill the governor signed last week would prohibit O from playing on girls’ sports teams.
“With the sports ban, my daughter starting in middle school would be excluded from spaces that she had been participating in,” Sasser said. “We want to make sure our kids can be safe and make sure they have the opportunities they want to play on a sports team that they enjoy.”
Over the weekend, only days after the governor signed the legislation into law, Sasser, her partner and her three kids were invited to the White House to celebrate Pride Month. Sasser’s family surrounded by hundreds of other LGBTQ families from around the country.
“For the first time in a long time, I didn’t have to worry about my family, I didn’t have to think about who was around or what they thought about us,” Sasser said. “I haven’t felt that way in Missouri for sure in the past year at all, if not longer.”
During his speech, President Joe Biden telling the crowd, “You are loved. You are heard. You are understood. And you belong.”
“At that moment, my daughter and myself just full on in tears hearing that message from the President,” Sasser said.
It was after that when Biden came down off of the stage and walked over to Sasser’s daughter, O.
“They had this kind of moment where they knelt their heads together and talked to each other and it was such a genuine, authentic concern and care that the President was giving to my daughter,” Sasser said. “It truly was a cathartic and healing moment.”
Sasser says it was a moment of peace for her family, after experiencing one of her lowest moments just days before.
“I promise I would never want to do anything to hurt my child, I promise she has been persistent about knowing who she is from a very young age and if you could just hear a little bit of our story, maybe you would understand that it’s not so scary,” Sasser said. “We’re just families trying to make it by, just like all of you.”
At least 20 states, including Missouri, have enacted laws that restrict or ban gender-affirming care for minors.
By August, Sasser says her family will be living in Colorado, and her kids will be ready to start at their new schools.
“I think she [O] understands that a world telling her she isn’t right or shouldn’t exist or shouldn’t be able to participate in it not a world she wants to live in anymore,” Sasser said. “I think she’s sad to leave but I also think she’s looking forward to being in a space where she doesn’t have to worry about those things anymore.”
Last month, Sasser stepped down from her position on the school board for Columbia Public Schools after serving two years in her three-year term. She said she had to resign in order for her family to move out of state.
“I felt a huge responsibility to finish out my term, and it was part of the conversation we had about whether or not we would move,” Sasser said. “I felt like I needed to stay in that seat for three years but ultimately, I had to step down.”
Under the law restricting transgender minors from access to puberty blockers or hormone treatment, the ban also affects adults on Medicaid by not allowing any gender-affirming care to be covered and surgery will no longer be available to prisoners and inmates.
According to the legislation, doctors who violate the law and treat patients would be subject to possibly losing their license and civil liability.
The two bills go into effect Aug. 28.