ICYMI: A Missouri Lawmaker Wants to Criminalize Teachers Who Support Their Trans Students. The Lawmaker’s Own Brother Says ‘It’s Just Whitewash for Hatred’

by Cullen Peele

Jefferson City, MO — Missouri State Representative Jamie Gragg introduced legislation last month that would label teachers as sex offenders for affirming any transgender student’s gender identity, a cruel and heinous bill that Gragg’s own brother condemned last week. “I saw this as blatant hatred wrapped up in the guise of protecting children,” Charles Gragg, Jr. told reporters during a March 7 press conference held by PROMO, Missouri’s leading LGBTQ+ advocacy organization.

Highlights of Gragg’s rebuke of his brother and his extreme, anti-freedom attack:

  • Gragg describes his initial thoughts when hearing of the legislation that was introduced, and called out the true intention of MAGA lawmakers in Missouri: “It quite literally took my breath away. Part of the desire here for the people behind this is not only can we punish people who disagree with our stance, but we can remove them from future conversations,” he later added. “It is just malicious and to call it ‘protecting children’ is just whitewash for hatred.”

  • Gragg calls out the bill’s permanent and destructive consequences because of the feigned issue it claims to solve: “For something so small and insignificant as just showing compassion to a kid who is having issues […] for reaching out a hand or being a shoulder to cry on, you’re going to put people on a sex offender registry or charge them with a felony which removes their ability to vote and would cost them their careers,” he said.

  • Gragg mentions his experience of being bullied as a youth, stating that the bill outlaws positive reinforcements that he desperately needed as a student, what all vulnerable children need to not only thrive, but survive: "It frightens and angers me to think if this legislation was around then, that with a stroke of a pen it could have ended their careers and destroyed their lives," he said. "It’s just hateful and malicious. This legislation will cost lives and recklessly destroy others just for the sin of being compassionate."

Charles Gragg, a retired, disabled Army veteran and “professional grandpa,” got in touch with pro-equality forces at PROMO, a statewide LGBTQ+ civil rights organization, within minutes of finding out about his brother’s dangerous bill, the first of its kind in the nation. HB 2885, filed on February 29, would make it a Class E felony for teachers or school counselors to aid the “social transition” of a child — which ranges anywhere from providing counseling to simply using a student's preferred name and pronouns or even displaying affirming literature. Teachers would also be forced to register as sex offenders, effectively ending educators’ careers.

The legislation comes as MAGA lawmakers across the country continue to test the boundaries of weaponizing government power to advance an extreme anti-equality agenda. It is the first bill in the U.S. to threaten prison time for teachers who affirm LGBTQ+ identities of their students, taking a page out of the book of far-right radicals in Russia, where any display of support for the LGBTQ+ community is punishable by prosecution and imprisonment.

In a story published by The Washington Post this week, there is an increasing and disturbing correlation between states that pass anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and a rise in bullying and hate crimes in schools. In states with restrictive laws, the number of hate crimes on K-12 campuses has more than quadrupled since the onset of legislative attacks against LGBTQ+ youth several years ago. Most significantly, in a study conducted by The Trevor Project, LGBTQ+ youth who have at least one accepting adult in their life were 40% less likely to attempt suicide. Yet, almost half (46.1%) of LGBTQ+ youth, including over half (54.9%) of transgender and gender-expansive youth, continue to feel unsafe in at least one school setting.

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