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Lawmakers to discuss bills this week that would ban gender affirming care for trans youth

Demonstrators rally in support of trans people and against Gov. Greg Abbott on Feb. 27, 2022, on the south steps of the Texas State Capitol in Austin.
Michael Minasi
Demonstrators rally in support of trans people and against Gov. Greg Abbott on Feb. 27, 2022, on the south steps of the Texas State Capitol in Austin.

Republican lawmakers in statehouses across the country have sponsored bills that, if passed, would limit transgender kids from accessing certain kinds of health care or playing sports in school.

Texas lieutenant governor Dan Patrick made it a Senate priority to pass these bills here, along with measures that pertain to classroom instruction about LGBTQ people.

At the Texas Capitol this week, several of these bills about trans kids will come up for discussion in the Senate and the House.

Sergio Martínez-Beltrán, who covers state politics for the Texas Newsroom, said a House panel will be discussing a bill that would prohibit the use of public assistance or public funds to provide gender affirming care for trans youth.

The Texas Senate could also vote on a few bills that would target transgender Texans, he said.

“One of the bills would ban doctors from providing gender affirming care to people under 18-years-old,” Martínez-Beltrán said. “When we talk about this care, gender affirming care, it includes puberty, blockers, hormones and surgeries. And under this particular measure, doctors who give this type of care to minors could have their licenses revoked.”

The Senate could also vote on a bill this week that would prohibit minors from changing their assigned sex at birth on their birth certificate. Lastly, senators are also expected to vote on legislation that would prohibit college athletes who are trans to compete in teams that do not match their sex assigned at birth.

Martínez-Beltrán said this slate of bills is expected to draw lots of people to the statehouse, including a rally at the Capitol on Monday afternoon to oppose the legislation.

“So far, based on some of the public testimony we’ve already heard on some of these bills, Republicans say that by banning gender affirming care for minors, they are protecting them,” he said. “Many of those who support ending gender affirming care say that kids don’t know what they want and that giving them puberty blockers or even surgery could be detrimental for their mental health.”

However, those who oppose the bills say that prohibiting gender affirming care could actually have serious consequences for minors who are transitioning.

“They also worry about the message it sends to them that potentially their government doesn’t support them and is in a way criminalizing their identity,” Martínez-Beltrán said.

Martínez-Beltrán said that while medical science can always evolve, doctors and medical associations currently support gender affirming care for minors.

“The major medical associations like the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the American Medical Association all oppose efforts to block gender affirming care,” he said. “They have said that prohibiting access increases the youth’s risk for suicidal ideation. In fact, research, funded by the National Institutes of Health, also found that gender affirming medical interventions in youth were associated with lower odds of depression. They’re worried that by taking this type of care away, kids would be the ones who would be harmed.”

Martínez-Beltrán said the bills under discussion this week are part of a national movement fueled by conservatives that has been years in the making.

“A few years ago in Texas, the Legislature fought over and over the so-called bathroom bills. That legislation would have banned transgender people from using the bathroom that matches their gender identity,” he said. “But that proposal failed in 2017, and it left Republicans very upset. And since then there has been an increase in this type of anti-trans legislation.”

Martínez-Beltrán also said he thinks the fear behind bills that would limit or ban gender affirming care for minors is misplaced.

“The reason why we’re here, I do think, is because of misinformation or a lack of knowledge,” he said. “We’ve heard Republicans talking over and over about kids receiving top surgery. And, you know, again, the number of youth who received this genital surgery is very small. Reuters had a really good story last year – they found that at least 88,000 youths were diagnosed with gender dysphoria from 2019 to 2021. But about 800 of them received the mastectomy. So that’s less than 1% who underwent this type of surgery.”

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Sarah Asch