One of two leading Democratic candidates, in a field of 11, vying for the position to replace retiring Missouri U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt in November’s midterm elections has had trouble articulating where she stands on transgender rights, gender-affirming care, and the right-wing red herring of critical race theory. Now, days before Missourians vote, her main Democratic primary opponent is blasting her for it.
Trudy Busch Valentine was Monday asked whether she supports a law prohibiting instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation, The Kansas City Star reports.
In Florida, such teaching is forbidden in grades K-3 and restricted in later grades, and opponents say it has a chilling effect. LGBTQ+ teachers may be afraid to mention their identity or to display pictures of their partners in the classroom because they may be fired or sued by parents.
Journalists posed a similar question to Busch Valentine in April, and she replied “more later,” but as the Star pointed out, Monday came later, and she didn’t seem to have any answers.
She made a spontaneous reference to critical race theory, a theory about systemic racial injustice taught in law schools, which right-wing politicians wrongly claim is taught in elementary and secondary schools to make white children feel shame.
“I think there are so many things out there, including critical race theory, that just tries to take away the history of our country and the good things we’ve done and the bad things we’ve done,” Busch Valentine said on St. Louis CBS affiliate KMOV.
She continued by saying she supports equality for everyone. “I think that’s talks between parents and their children, and I think we have to respect equal rights for all people, and we have to respect the dignity of all people,” she said.
She eventually said she thought the matter should be left to the teachers.
A bizarre video posted July 23 by a St. Louis ward committeewoman shows Busch Valentine struggling with her position on transgender rights, rambling and stumbling over her words.
“I respect the dignity of every human person. And transgender, I respect,” Busch Valentine says in the video. “If a man feels that they’re a woman and wants to become a woman, I respect that. And I respect it the opposite way too. Those are things that have to be solved amongst families and amongst parents.”
She then asserted that doctors should refrain from providing gender-affirming care to children until they’re adults, something right-wing pundits and politicians have been asserting.
“I only would say, wait until 18, when a person is an adult, to do everything that wouldn’t allow going back to being maybe the sex that you were,” she said. “But I totally, totally support transgenders without a doubt and the LGBT community.”
Gender-affirming care for young people usually consists of puberty blockers and hormone treatment, with most of the effects reversible, contrary to what anti-trans politicians claim. Genital surgery is not performed on minors.
She went on to describe the LGBTQ+ community as one of love. “There’s so much love in those communities. They should never be threatened for anything that they’ve done. They’re all about love and loving each other and everyone.” she said.
In response to a request for an interview to discuss her positions on universal health care, critical race theory, transgender rights, and gender-affirming care, Busch Valentine’s spokesperson initially said she wasn’t available but would respond to written questions.
However, upon receiving The Advocate’s questions, Busch Valentine’s campaign sent a brief statement and declined to answer any questions.
“Trudy Busch Valentine is a steadfast ally of the LGBTQ community,” campaign manager Alex Witt wrote. “In the Senate, she will co-sponsor the Equality Act and fight to protect marriage equality, because every single person, regardless of whom they love, should be treated equally under the law. Trudy has also stated her commitment to ban conversion therapy, and will oppose efforts to punish parents for helping their children access gender affirming health care. As far as Critical Race Theory, Trudy believes that every child should learn age-appropriate, accurate education about our nation’s history.”
Fellow Democratic Senate candidate Lucas Kunce told The Advocate that Busch Valentine’s words speak for themselves.
“I can’t speak for her, but I think she said what she believes,” he said.
Kunce, whose staff is one-third LGBTQ+ and who has a younger brother who is a member of the LGBTQ+ community, says that he understands that constituency and that Busch Valentine doesn’t.
“At first, I thought she just seemed ignorant, and then it seemed like maybe she just didn’t care to know, but it’s become a pattern,” Kunce said.
He doesn’t believe that it’s ignorance on Busch Valentine’s behalf that makes it difficult for her to speak comfortably about LGBTQ+ issues, he said.
“I don’t think she believes youth should get gender-affirming care and…I believe that’s dangerous to neglect a third of our trans youth who are at risk of losing this care,” he continued.
“We have to have senators that are willing to fight for that care,” Kunce said.
With Missouri’s conservative legislature seemingly poised to restrict LGBTQ+ rights, he said that federal protections are the bulwark that stands between the rights of LGBTQ+ people and attacks by Republicans.
Laws passed in GOP-controlled states throughout the country have targeted transgender youth. These laws restrict their sports participation, bathroom use, and medical care.
Kunce went viral last week after he tweeted about Missouri's junior U.S. senator, Josh Hawley, who was shown during the January 6 Select Committee hearings fleeing from the crowd invading the U.S. Capitol January 6, 2021, after he had raised a fist with in solidarity with the insurgents earlier in the day.
With less than a week left until the Democratic primary, Busch Valentine appears to be attempting to strike a balance between appeasing the LGBTQ+ community and appealing to conservative voters.
Since her family owned a majority stake in Anheuser-Busch, which was sold for $52 billion to InBev in 2008, Busch Valentine is the heir to a multibillion-dollar fortune. Forbes magazine estimated the family’s wealth in 2020 at $17.6 billion, ranking the family 16th in the nation.
She is worth $215 million and has an annual income of $30 million, according to federal disclosures she made and reported by the Missouri Independent.