This week, November 13 to November 19, is Transgender Awareness Week which is a one-week celebration leading up to the Transgender Day of Remembrance. Transgender Day of Remembrance is on November 20th this year and annually serves as a specific day to memorialize victims of transphobic violence. Transgender Awareness Week and Transgender Day of Remembrance is a time for the LGBTQ+ community to celebrate, honor, and uplift the positive and insightful stories of trans people across the country. Transgender Awareness Week is also a week when transgender people and their allies take action to bring attention to the trans community by educating the public about who transgender people are, sharing stories and experiences, and advancing advocacy around issues of prejudice, discrimination, and violence that affect the transgender community.
One such person educating the public, specifically the Missouri legislature, about transgender people and advocating on behalf of the transgender community at the state-level in Missouri is the current Executive Director of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Missouri Chapter, Cassie Brown. Jess Harman, the current MSW Student Representative on the NASW Missouri Chapter Board of Director, interviewed Cassie to highlight and discuss all the amazing work she has done in her first year as Executive Director.
Jess: Thank you so much for speaking with me Cassie. What are your pronouns for today?
Cassie: My pronouns for today are she/her.
Jess: Okay great. My pronouns for today are she/her as well. As I’ve come to learn, the NASW Missouri Chapter has legislative priorities which are aligned with the National Association of Social Workers priorities. One of these legislative priorities is advancing human rights which would include advancing the rights of transgender people. So this is not only a priority of the Missouri Chapter but also of the national organization as well. Is that right?
Cassie: Yes – NASW considers the lives of transgender people worthy to elevate and include in the fabric of society. People deserve to feel safe and welcome wherever they are.
Jess: As I’ve come to learn, the 2023 Missouri legislative session was a busy time for you as there were a lot of anti-trans bills being discussed in the capital. How many times did you testify against anti-trans legislation?
Cassie: I testified specifically against anti-trans legislation on 6 or 7 occasions. In those specific occasions they totaled 15 bills because sometimes those opportunities would address multiple bills simultaneously. For broader LGBTQ bills addressing the entire community I testified about a dozen times.
Jess: Could you tell us briefly about these bills?
Cassie: Anti-trans bills came up multiple times. SB 39 was a ban on the full participation of trans minors and adults in school and intercollegiate sports. It meant that trans athletes could not compete on the team that aligned with their gender. SB 49 was a ban on gender-affirming medical treatment for minors. The kinds of anti-LGBTQ legislation that I testified on that impacted the trans community included things like the “Don’t Say Gay” bill that also targeted gender as an element of the bill. It would have disallowed school staff from discussing gender identity with students and some versions of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill would have required forced outing of the gender identity of trans youth to parents or caregivers.
Jess: What was it like to testify against the anti-trans bills?
Cassie: It was both painful and an extreme honor. At times it felt very powerful to be a voice for my community and to have that sense of duty and trust. When I say my community, I speak as a social worker and in a personal way as a member of the LGBTQ community. I also experienced both connection and frustration. It was very powerful to be with so many other trans youth, LGBTQ leaders, parents, people passionate about LGBTQ rights in the room, and yet always to wonder how much of our words would be heard.
Jess: What drives you to advocate for the transgender community specifically?
Cassie: I was raised to do what was right and to tell the truth. And the truth is that trans folks deserve dignity, care, and compassion. I was given the opportunity to say those things, so I said them. The impact of standing up is not always immediately visible. I didn’t always expect or understand the impact that my words could have, but often it was the youth or parents who saw that someone cared and spoke out and saw the number of people in the room backing them and that mattered. Hope matters.
Jess: Thank you so much for sharing this with me Cassie.
Cassie: Thank you.
NASW Missouri is fortunate to have Cassie as our Executive Director and we are eager to support her in this next legislative session in continuing to show up for transgender Missourians. Thank you, Cassie, for everything you do! If you’re interested in joining Cassie and NASW Missouri in the fight for trans+ rights, please subscribe to the NASW Missouri Chapter VoterVoice for Action Alerts! You can do so on our website: https://naswmo.socialworkers.org/