Advocate Stories, Gender Justice, Health and Education
Melissa Moore Testimony on School Censorship Bills
by Melissa Moore on Mar 2, 2022
On Tuesday, March 1, 2022 the House Education Committee heard testimony
Melissa Moore, a community advocate and WREN’s Lowcountry Manager gave the testimony below:
Thank you for your commitment to hearing public testimony. I’ve been in other hearings this session where the public was silenced, which feels like a grave threat to the democratic process. My name is Melissa Moore and I am a constituent from Charleston County, land of the Kusso-Natchez people and the Gullah Geechee people of SC. I use they/them pronouns and am a nonbinary, transgender person, not “a transgender” as some previous speakers wrongly suggested. While we’re on the topic of core competencies, I thought it important to tell you “transgender” is an adjective, not a noun.
I am pleading with you to VOTE NO on all of these bills. Many of us here today are dealing with major pandemic-related stress. These bills are an insult when so many of us are in crisis, myself included. Our electeds are supposed to protect us, not attack us. Yet here we are, again, begging and pleading with legislators to see our humanity.
I was educated in the SC public school system during a time that some previous speakers characterized as the “good ole days.” In school, I learned the lies that Columbus discovered America, the pilgrims were friends to indigenous tribes, and that anti-Blackness ended with the abolition of slavery. These mistruths contributed to violence in the schoolyard, often inflicted on Black students by the “rednecks.” These same “rednecks” beat up the queer and trans students and anyone they deemed to be out of alignment with gendered expectations. I also identified as a boy when I was a child, which put a target on my back.
All of these experiences informed my work providing support to LGBTQ+ youth in my 9 years running a youth organization. Through that role, I saw firsthand the devastating effects of transphobia and racism on youth. In March 2020, Post & Courier reported an uptick in youth suicide due to the stress of the pandemic. Transgender children are at higher risk of suicide, not because they are inherently more depressed than non-transgender kids. But because they are subjected to bullying. These bills attempt to erase transgender people from public life and dehumanize BIPOC communities. This is nothing more than an extension of the colonial project. You’re legislating trans kids into a social death, so it’s no wonder why so many of them can’t see a future for themselves. And if you think that problems affecting children with marginalized identities don’t affect white, cisgender heterosexual children, you’re mistaken. Suicidal ideation is contagious. When one child is suicidal, it creates a domino effect. You’re feeding a culture of violence, whether that violence is turned inward or outward.
What these bills cultivate in white people is the inability to accept critical feedback, which will leave them emotionally and intellectually repressed. What they manifest in marginalized communities is erasure and trauma. It seems like the proponents of these bills only care about white, cisgender heterosexual comfort. What about the discomfort felt by students of color in predominantly white schools or that of LGBTQ+ students in environments that are designed to eradicate them?
Students and teachers have been painfully clear about what they need form you. Teachers say they need smaller class sizes, COVID protective measures, better pay. Students say they need mental health support, the removal of police from their schools, and respect for their gender identities and lived experiences. When will you stop listening to known hate groups and start listening to the people who have to live with the laws you make? The indoctrination we need to worry about is fascism in the classroom.
Growth is uncomfortable, but stagnation is fatal. Our students cannot grow and heal unless they learn the truth about their histories.
I strongly urge you to oppose House Bill 4325, House Bill 4343, House Bill 4392, House Bill 4605, and House Bill 4799.