In a video posted by the Human Rights Campaign, a lawmaker from Missouri is filmed asking a series of inappropriate, intrusive questions to a nonbinary teenager.
State Sen. Elaine Gannon asked the questions during a hearing March 1 over a bill that would ban trans girls and women from participating in sports teams that match their gender identity.
Avery Jackson, a 14-year-old from Kansas City who identifies as nonbinary, testified in front of the Missouri Senate Education Committee.
In the video, Gannon tells Jackson, “You’re in the ladies' room and then you realize somebody else in there doesn't have a female's … has a male body instead of a female's body. I mean it just causes some issues there.”
Jackson responds, “No, it doesn’t.” They explain that people should just be able to go to the bathroom.
Gannon says, “They probably don’t realize because you have such long hair.” Gannon then asks Jackson, “Are you gonna go through the procedure?”
Jackson responds to the question by saying, “You think we’re going around forcing our genitalia in people’s faces? We’re trying to go to the bathroom. And what you want to do is not let people do that?”
The senator replies that she was “seriously just curious.”
Avery’s mother, Debi Jackson, steps in: "You're asking a 14-year-old on public record about genitals and if people could see that?"
"My child is so much more than genitals," Debi Jackson is heard saying. "And that's what I need you to see."
She continues, "I don't know what your genitals are. I have not made an assumption, and I'm not willing to ask that question because it's frankly inappropriate."
Debi Jackson, an LGBTQ+ rights activist who is familiar with the hearings going around the country related to anti-trans legislation, tells The Advocate, “I've never seen a legislator directly ask a trans person about their genitals and bodies the way that this senator did.”
She says that Avery Jackson went back to the hearing room after testifying and began shaking with emotion and shedding "hot, angry tears."
Debi Jackson shares that they told her, “I can't believe an adult, someone in power, would treat a child that way. And I can't believe that no one was willing to stick say something to stop it while it was happening.”
They were specifically upset that the committee chair, Sen. Cindy O’Laughlin, did not intervene during the questioning.
Both Debi and Avery Jackson have been attending these types of hearings for years now, testifying against anti-trans bills.
“It isn't about how old kids can be to make decisions for themselves,” Debi Jackson says. “It really comes down to not seeing trans people as full human beings and always wanting to reduce them to parts and make them into predators who don't care about other people's discomfort.”
She adds, “All the other arguments and justifications that they tried to put out there about why passing any of these bills are necessary are complete fabrications. It really does just come down to wanting to dehumanize trans folks, and because they are seen as curiosities or seen as somewhat different, the legislators voting on their basic rights aren't actually taking the time to educate themselves.”
Debi Jackson tells The Advocate that she’s proud of how Avery handled the senator's improper remarks. “Avery just took it and answered the person back and was not going to let that line of questioning go without speaking up for themself.”
Sen. Gannon has not responded to a request for comment at this time.