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Instead of complaints, Missouri Attorney General's trans tip line flooded with pro-trans support

Becky Hormuth and Levi Hormuth, 17, both of St. Charles, pose for a portrait on Wednesday, May 1, 2024, at Park-Like in Grand Center.
Eric Lee
St. Louis Public Radio
Becky Hormuth and Levi Hormuth, 17, both of St. Charles, pose for a portrait on Wednesday, May 1, 2024, at Park-Like in Grand Center.

Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey went looking for complaints about gender-affirming health care last year. He got something else: Thousands of complaints about Bailey and the tip line itself.

A tip line created by Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey to collect complaints about gender-affirming care received thousands of responses before it was shut down in April 2023.

At the time, Bailey’s office provided little explanation beyond suggesting that the service had been hacked by “far left activists…trying to impede parents' ability to shed light on what happened to their children.”

But records obtained by St. Louis Public Radio through a Sunshine Request show a different story playing out in the short-lived tip line: Its first 48 hours of existence cover thousands of pages and more than 400 emails. Despite Bailey’s call for the public to provide accounts of abuse at the Washington University Transgender Center at St. Louis Children's Hospital, the majority of the tip line’s first replies defended gender-affirming care, praised the clinic and instead used the provided form to submit complaints about Bailey and the tip line itself.

Becky Hormuth, a teacher and mother of a 17-year-old trans child, made one of the first replies that came into the tip line on March 23, 2023. In her message, she wrote that Bailey was “trying to bully and dismiss the rights my husband and I have as parents.”

Looking back on her response a year ago, Hormuth said she was fearful that the tip line would become a tool used by Republican lawmakers in their efforts to end trans care in Missouri. She saw it as a potential danger.

“I was afraid of it, not just for our family and my child in general, but for all transgender individuals in Missouri,” she told St. Louis on the Air. “I felt like it was a hunt to find evidence of something that was unfounded….It's harming my family.”

The tip line lasted only a month, ending on April 21, 2023 — but Bailey’s efforts were followed weeks later by a trans care ban passed by Missouri’s Republican-majority legislature. Although that law seemingly included an exception for trans minors already receiving care, in August, Washington University announced it would no longer provide gender-affirming care to patients under 18, citing “unsustainable liability for health-care professionals” triggered by the new law.

One of those patients turned away from the clinic was Hormuth’s son, Levi. He now travels to Illinois to receive gender-affirming care like testosterone.

When he and his mother found out about the clinic closing its doors to trans kids, “we kind of broke down,” Levi recalled. “My mom, she immediately started calling into places outside of the state, because nobody in state would take anybody more or take new patients. So we had to resort to Illinois. And that took more extra time to get into that clinic. It was emotional and scary and horrible to go through. But we were able to adapt.”

Bailey’s investigation of the clinic is ongoing. His office did not respond to questions from St. Louis on the Air about the total number of respondents to the tip line or what role the complaints have in the investigation.

Although they do not contain evidence of hacking, the records of the tip line’s first 48 hours appear to confirm reports of activists trying to jam the service with trolling, jokes and insults directed at Bailey. One March 23 email began with the script of the 2007 animated film "Bee Movie" and continued for more than 2,800 pages.

To hear more about Andrew Bailey’s trans tip line and how it affected trans people and families, listen to St. Louis on the Air on Apple Podcast or Spotify or by clicking the play button below.

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski, Elaine Cha and Alex Heuer. Roshae Hemmings is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr. Send questions and comments about this story to talk@stlpr.org.

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Danny Wicentowski
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