Three Republican lawmakers in North Carolina introduced a controversial bill this week that would ban doctors from performing gender-confirmation surgery for transgender youth under the age of 21.
Senate Bill 514, introduced on Monday by state Sens. Ralph Hise, Warren Daniel and Norman Sanderson, would make it illegal for people under 21 to receive transitional health care. The bill would supersede North Carolina’s statute that designates people over 18 as adults and able to act without the consent of their parents.
The bill would also require state employees to immediately notify parents, possibly outing the children, in writing if their child displays “gender nonconformity, or otherwise demonstrates a desire to be treated in a manner incongruent with the minor’s sex.” S.B. 514 goes further in preventing doctors from providing gender-confirming hormone treatment, puberty blockers or surgery for trans youth under 21. None of the three senators responded to Yahoo News’ request for comment.
Critics of the bill call it part of a “coordinated attack” on trans youth across the country.
“The true aim is to push trans and nonbinary people out of public life,” Chantal Stevens, executive director of the ACLU of North Carolina, said in a statement provided to Yahoo News.
“This year we are seeing upwards of 100 pieces of legislation, including companion bills, targeting trans youth and trans people,” Raquel Willis, a Black transgender activist and writer, told Yahoo News. “These bills police the trans community similarly to other pieces of legislation that marginalize other populations that include Black and brown lives.”
Under the bill, medical professionals who treat trans patients under the age of 21 who present in a way that is “incongruent with the minor’s sex” could be subject to fines and the loss of their medical license.
At least 24 states have introduced bills this year that would ban transgender girls from participating in sports, according to the ACLU. In Kansas, lawmakers are likely to pass such a bill this month, but LGBT advocates are hoping that Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly, or perhaps the courts, will block such a ban.
“We want to protect all female athletes, K through collegiate,” said GOP state Sen. Renee Erickson, the bill’s main sponsor and a former college basketball player.
Including S.B. 514, bills have been presented in 16 states that would prohibit gender-affirming care for trans youth.
“Not only are these bills rooted in falsehoods, hate, and fear-mongering, but they also invade the private interactions between each of us and our medical providers,” Stevens said.
Nearly 2 percent of all youth nationwide identify as transgender, according to the Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ youth. And overall, transgender youth report higher rates of depression, suicide and victimization in comparison to cisgender youth. In 2018 alone, one in three transgender youths reported attempting suicide. Bills like S.B. 514 further exacerbate these issues, trans and queer advocates say.
“S.B. 514 is an extreme and dangerous bill,” Casey Pick, senior fellow for advocacy and government affairs at the Trevor Project, told Yahoo News. “Denying medically necessary care, and turning school into a place where transgender and nonbinary youth cannot trust the adults around them to act in their best interests, would only work to increase social isolation and stigma, which can contribute to suicide risk.”
On Tuesday, Arkansas became the first state to ban gender-confirming treatments or surgery for transgender youth under 18, despite the fact that Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, vetoed the bill the previous day, saying it went “too far.” The Legislature overrode his veto.
The bill is “overbroad and extreme, and does not grandfather in those young people who are currently under hormone treatment,” Hutchinson said. “The young people who are currently under a doctor’s care will be left without treatment when this law goes into effect.”
Transgender advocates say enough is enough.
“Gender-affirming health care is lifesaving care, and banning that care will have devastating and in some cases deadly consequences,” Ann C. Webb, senior policy counsel for the ACLU of North Carolina, told Yahoo News.
“These bills send a heartbreaking message to the transgender young people who are watching in fear across our state,” she added. “Trans youth are loved, they are seen, and we will never stop fighting to defend their dignity, their rights and their lives.”
Lillian Lennon, a transgender activist, was 14 when her parents sent her from Alaska to Utah to undergo conversion therapy for two years.
“Trans people live amongst you, we are like and unlike you, and we deserve the basic rights afforded to the rest of our community,” Lennon told Yahoo News. “I know firsthand what it’s like to be a trans teen without support, protections and unwillfully outed to my friends and family. It feels hopeless. But there is hope, and we can do better by our LGBTQ+ youth by strengthening our communities and resources, not by tearing them apart.”
S.B. 514 must first be heard in committee before being brought to the floor of the North Carolina General Assembly for a final vote. Another bill, H.B. 358, which would ban trans girls and women from athletics, will be heard next Wednesday. If either bill becomes law, the ACLU and its partners will try to stop it with litigation.
In the meantime, Democrats are pushing to expand the rights of transgender youth.
On Tuesday, Democrats in North Carolina presented four bills aimed at increasing protections, which include a full repeal of House Bill 2, or the state’s “bathroom bill,” which was passed in 2016 and partially repealed a year later. Also, progressive lawmakers are pushing to prohibit gay conversion therapy practices.
Democrats across the state say they are hopeful that, in tandem with Republicans, they can work to ensure that transgender youth are positioned for success and not set up for failure.
“I believe that regardless of party, we can come together to protect our kids,” state Sen. Natasha Marcus, a Democrat, said.
Trans activists say it’s lawmakers’ job to make things easier on trans youth, not harder.
“Our research demonstrates that half of all transgender and nonbinary youth who wanted mental health care in the past year were not able to get it — with one in three saying they didn’t feel a provider would understand their sexual orientation or gender identity,” Casey Pick of the Trevor Project said. “That’s why lawmakers should be expanding opportunity and support services for this group, not making life harder than it already is.”
Cover thumbnail photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Drew Angerer/Getty Images, David Silverman/Getty Images
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