By DAVID A. COOK
On our last Labor Tribune column I wrote about how the Missouri legislature once again failed to do much of anything as our elected representatives. With all the time spent fighting over nonsense issues there was hardly time for them to mount attacks on workers, which is the silver lining to an otherwise dreary cloud.
With Pride Month ready to kick off on June 1, I thought it was worth mentioning in this column that there was one issue that many politicians in this state — and states across the country — spent a lot of taxpayer time on. Dozens of bills were filed in the Missouri legislature alone directly attacking transgender individuals and, in particular, transgender kids.
Before we comment on this topic, let’s be clear: I know not all of our partners see eye-to-eye on issues like this. We can respectfully disagree as long as that disagreement doesn’t result in harassment or discrimination. Sadly, harassment and discrimination were the goals of many bills filed this year that involved trans folks.
Republican politicians spent countless hours — hours paid for by the taxpayer — debating bills that would require transgender kids in public schools to play sports that aligned with their gender assigned at birth, rather than the gender they identify as. Now we could spend some time on the issue of transgender athletics and competition but rather than do that I’d like to offer the following statistic: according to the Missouri State High School Activities Association there are a grand total of five kids in our state that are transgender and actively playing sports.
You read that right. Five kids. Anyone who followed this legislative session could tell you that Missouri politicians spent literally dozens of hours debating bills that would impact precisely five children in our state. Perhaps one thing we can all agree on is that this represents a colossal waste of time, especially in a state where tens of thousands of children live in poverty or do not have a home at all. Maybe eradicating child hunger and homelessness should merit more attention than bullying a handful of trans children who simply want to be left alone.
MORE TIME THAN ANY OTHER ISSUE
The nonsense didn’t end there. In fact, it’s entirely likely that issues relating to trans Missourians occupied more time of politicians in this state than any other single issue. This should be unacceptable while Missouri remains dead last in teacher pay and with 25 percent of our school districts so badly funded they are now resorting to four-day school weeks.
Other legislation targeting trans Missourians came in the form of bills making it harder for them to access medical care. Gender-affirming care is widely acknowledged to drastically reduce the suicide rate among trans kids and adults.
Before we go any further on the topic, a reminder that gender-affirming care for trans children is endorsed by the following organizations: the American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, Endocrine Society, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the World Health Organization, the National Association of Nurse Practitioners and the Mayo Clinic.
In other words: this kind of care is good for kids and adults who need it, and Missouri Republicans went out of their way to pass legislation to make it harder to receive this care. This move will result in more suicides of trans individuals, more families with trans kids leaving our state, and will even likely impact decisions made by larger businesses when looking for states to open new offices and facilities.
SMALL, MEAN AND PETTY
You might utterly disagree with me on this issue, but we can all agree that this much time spent trying to make life harder for a tiny fraction of the population is simply not a good use of the time and resources of our elected officials. It feels small, mean, and petty — because it is.
Some of you may know by now that there is a concentrated effort by some anti-LGBTQIA+ activists to boycott the various businesses and organizations that participate in Pride Month. Consumers are free to spend their money wherever they like and, as always, I will continue to advocate that all Americans spend their dollars in union businesses whenever possible. Our major employers have worked well with us over the past several years to ensure protections in the workplace for ALL workers, regardless of how they identify or who they love.
PART OF OUR UNION FAMILY
Last year we were proud to secure gender-affirming care for participants in the UFCW Local 655 Health & Welfare Fund and I’m proud of that accomplishment.
When I see in the news that people are harassing employees at businesses selling Pride merchandise, when I hear news stories about making it harder for my fellow Missourians to get medical care, I don’t view those stories as “Union President David Cook.” I view these stories as just a citizen of this state who finds hate in all forms to be exhausting and unacceptable.
You don’t have to fully understand someone else’s life to think that they still deserve dignity and respect. You don’t need to personally know an LGBTQIA person to think that all people deserve to be treated as, well, people.
When you’re in this union, you’re part of my union family, and I will always fight for my family. I wish all of us, union or not, would view our fellow human beings the same way. Missouri doesn’t need hate. There’s plenty of hate in the world. Let’s try a little compassion and love instead.
If you’re wondering what UFCW Local 655 thinks about Pride Month, come on down to the St. Louis Pride Parade on June 25 and see for yourself.