South Dakota’s House Bill 1057 that sought to block physicians from providing puberty blockers and gender confirmation surgery to help minors (under 16) change their gender was defeated this past week. It’s stalled for a year anyway and I hope forever!
If the bill had passed, South Dakota doctors who were caught performing gender-affirming care, would have been “hit” with a Class 1 Misdemeanor that could have resulted in a maximum sentence of up to one year in PRISON and a fine of $2,000. South Dakota would have been the first state to restrict the type of medical care to trans and nonbinary youth.
A transgender youth from South Dakota Quincy Parke, 17, addressed the House this past week and underlined the effects of gender dysphoria (strong disconnect from their bodies given to them at birth), the most serious one being a suicide attempt rate of fifty percent. Quincy said the bill would have created more harm, not harm reduction.
This suicide attempt rate of 50% is confirmed by Susan Williams, Executive Director of the youth advocacy group Transformation Project this year. Resident physician in Child and Adolescent psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital where he researches the mental health of transgender youth, Jacob Turban, M.D., wrote an Op-ED in The New York Times, February 8, 2020, that puberty causes transgender stress, hence the need for puberty blockers to reduce a transgender child’s suicide ideation.
The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry released a statement condemning this bill as well as others in Colorado (felony and malpractice), Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina. Missouri and New Hampshire have particularly harsh punishments for doctors as proposed laws would regard this care as a Class D felony, charge of child abuse and neglect, punishable by up to SEVEN years in prison.
The Republican Utah legislator Republican Representative Brad Daw’s law compromises and would ban surgeries for minors but allow hormone therapy for minors. These are safe medications that doctors have been using on nontransgender youths who go through puberty too early. These drugs are not used on prepubescent children. If they are NOT used on adolescent transgenders, they can go through unwelcome physical changes that are difficult to reverse and may require surgery.
However, the Republican author of the South Dakota Bill 1057, Fred Deutsch, likens the patient care afforded transgender youth to Nazi experiments. (His parents were Holocaust survivors). Through Deutsch’s lens, his proposed legislation was protection from “criminal acts against vulnerable children who are too young to understand the impact.”
According to Dr. Turban’s research, transgender children know their gender from a very young age calculated at eighteen months to three years. Even prepubescent children allowed to socially transition (called by the right pronoun, dress and act like they identify), according to two studies by Dr. Turban, have mental health nearly indistinguishable from that of cisgender kids (those who identify with their birth assignments).
The American Medical Association does endorse the gender-affirming care for youth as does The American Academy of Pediatrics and Endocrine Society. Yet legislators and the public know so little about the 2% of our youth who identify as transgender. This lack of education should not be the deciding factor in passing bills that can harm the transgender’s well-being.
I must say I knew little about transgenders until I interviewed J.R. Villari in 2016 for my co-authored book When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know (Sterling: 2016). J.R. was born Jennifer Rebecca in Staten Island. He was at war with the gender he was assigned at birth:
“I used to cringe when I heard the command ‘girls in one line, boys in the other. I was never comfortable in the girls’ bathroom.” His mother tried to send him to high school with a frilly blouse, and he would take a change of clothes, baggy and amorphous, in his backpack.
J.R. received testosterone treatment when he was eighteen. He told me that if he hadn’t transitioned, he would have continued to struggle and probably committed suicide. “It’s the best decision I’ve ever made.”
When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know
For more detailed advice, see book, co-authored with a mother of a gay son and a psychiatrist, Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D.