Trans children have been in the national spotlight in recent weeks, with the governor of Texas stepping in to try to prevent a mother from allowing her child to make the transition. And on Wednesday, South Carolina lawmakers joined in a bill that would ban a variety of medical treatments for trans children.
The bill, called the Youth Gender Reassignment Prevention Act, prohibits doctors from performing any âmedical sex reassignment treatmentâ on anyone under the age of 18. Moved by State Representative Stewart Jones, a Republican, the bill is not just about surgery, which is rare for patients under the age of 18 in any case. It would also ban hormones and puberty blockers, a reversible treatment that stops the physical changes associated with puberty. And that would bar doctors from performing “interventions to alleviate symptoms of clinically significant distress resulting from gender dysphoria,” or a conflict between a person’s assigned gender and their gender identity.
The bill provides an exception allowing mental health counseling. But the bill is so broad it could ban “interventions” like allowing a child to dress in accordance with their gender identity, Colleen Condon, chair of the advocacy group’s board, told Vox. South Carolina LGBTQ Rights Alliance for Full Acceptance. âIt basically seems to say that you can’t be you,â she added.
Pre-tabled during a break in the South Carolina legislature, the bill won’t be heard until January at the earliest. But it’s part of a larger trend across the country, with lawmakers in Texas, Georgia and Kentucky banning medical care for trans youth, as Katelyn Burns at Vox reports. If passed, trans rights advocates say, such laws have the potential to harm trans youth, who are already at high risk for suicide and depression, by cutting them off access to the care they need.
Jones told Vox in an email that the bill was intended to help children, allowing “doctors to treat the underlying psychological issues in minors with gender dysphoria before changing hormones.” But Condon fears Jones’s efforts will have the opposite effect. âIt feels like he’s trying to lead our trans teens to the grave,â she said.
South Carolina bill would ban many types of medical care for trans youth
The Youth Gender Change Prevention Act was pre-tabled on November 20, which is also Transgender Remembrance Day, a day in honor of those who have died as a result of anti-trans violence. .
But rather than tackle such violence, the bill would restrict the type of medical care trans youth can receive.
Across the country, the care doctors recommend for trans children varies by age, as Burns reports. Before puberty, they usually do not perform any medical intervention. On the contrary, most major medical associations recommend the âaffirmation methodâ for young children who may be trans, allowing them to experiment with different pronouns or gender presentations as they wish.
If a child is entering puberty and their gender identity has been consistent for several years, a doctor may prescribe puberty blockers to stop the onset of puberty until the patient can make a decision about further treatment. permanent. Later, if their gender identity remains consistent, they may begin to use cross-sex hormones to induce puberty consistent with their identity.
The South Carolina bill would appear to ban both puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones. And because it bans interventions “to alleviate the symptoms of clinically significant distress resulting from gender dysphoria,” it could also ban the affirmation method, preventing doctors, for example, from recommending that parents allow a physician. child to dress or do their hair in a way that is compatible with their gender identity.
The bill provides an exception allowing âbehavioral health care services, such as mental health counselingâ for gender dysphoria. However, the wording of the bill is so broad that it could even ban drugs for depression or other mental health issues associated with dysphoria, Condon said.
Jones told Vox the bill “will not prevent anyone from getting mental health services, counseling and medication.” But Condon said that until the wording of the bill changes, the issue of drugs remains a concern.
And overall, the ban could be very dangerous for trans youth, who are already at high risk for attempted suicide, Condon said. In a recent study, more than 50% of male trans teens said they tried to end their life, along with almost 30% of transgender teens.
The bill “is essentially deadly state-sponsored violence against trans children,” Chase Strangio, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney who recently argued a landmark LGBTQ rights case before Twitter, said on Twitter. the Supreme Court.
Doctors who prescribe puberty blockers and other care in South Carolina are doing so to help relieve gender dysphoria and save the lives of young people, Condon added. âAny treatment that occurs is limited, thoughtful and medically appropriate,â she said. The bill, on the other hand, would force doctors “to commit professional misconduct” by denying treatment they deem necessary for the health of children.
And yet, under the bill, doctors who provide prohibited treatments could lose their medical licenses.
It’s part of a bigger movement across the country
South Carolina lags behind many other states when it comes to trans rights, Condon said, with one of the most difficult legal transition processes in the country and no state laws allowing people to change their gender. legal. (California, on the other hand, allows trans people to legally change their sex if they submit an affidavit proving their gender identity.) At least five trans people have been killed in the state this year, including Pebbles LaDime Doe, 24. , who was shot dead in August.
But the law on the prevention of gender reassignment in young people is not unique. As Burns reports, Texas State Representative Matt Krause has pledged to introduce a bill to ban puberty blockers in his state, while fellow Texas Representative Steve Toth has vowed to introduce a bill defining the âtransition of a minorâ as child abuse. Their promises came amid a media storm against Luna Younger, a 7-year-old trans girl whose father wants to prevent her from posing as a girl. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott even got involved, saying he would ask state child welfare services to investigate the girl’s mother, who supports the gender identity of Younger.
Younger’s case appears to have had an impact on Jones as well. âAs a parent, it’s very upsetting to see what happened recently in Texas, with a mother forcing sex disruption on a 7 year old and against the father’s will,â he said. . “Forcing someone to make these decisions (especially a child) is wrong.” (According to court records, Younger asked to be called Luna and has always been consistent in identifying her as a girl throughout her childhood, Burns reports.)
Meanwhile, lawmakers in other states, including Kentucky and Georgia, are also considering legislation to restrict medical care for transgender children.
The push for such restrictions is reminiscent of the “bathroom” bills, legislation in recent years that sought to prevent trans people from using bathrooms that are compatible with their gender identity, as noted. MarÃa MÃ©ndez of the Dallas Morning News. For a time, the bills became “the center of the country’s cultural wars,” German Lopez de Vox reported, with Republicans backing the restrictions and LGBTQ rights groups launching protests and state boycotts. who had such laws in effect.
Restrictions on medical care could become a similar battleground, and Republicans could use them to stir up controversy and energize their base as a general election year approaches. âI don’t even know how much Rep Jones cares about this,â Condon said of the South Carolina bill, âas much as creating something that’s red meat to attract those who do not support the polls. “
Whatever the intention, Condon says the impact on trans people could be even more severe than that of bathroom bills. And proposals like South Carolina’s are having an impact on the entire LGBTQ community in the state, she said.
At a ceremony Thursday night to mark Transgender Day of Remembrance, “there was such a shock and such a depression in our community,” Condon said. The group remembered the trans people murdered in South Carolina this year, as well as a trans teenager who committed suicide after being denied hormone treatment.
âWe are trying to save children’s lives,â Condon said.
Update: This story has been updated to reflect comments from Rep. Stewart Jones received after press time, as well as additional comments from Colleen Condon.