Trans kids, parents fight wave of legislation in red states

Montgomery, Ala. (AP) — 15-year-old ninth-grade Harley Walker spends her time after school like many girls her age: doing homework, listening to Taylor Swift, collecting records, and hanging out with friends.

But this year, her spring break also included trying to persuade members of the State House and Senate to reject a law banning gender-affirming drugs for transgender children under the age of 19. She failed. On Thursday, Alabama lawmakers passed the measure. If Gov. If Kay Ivey signs this into law, Harleigh will no longer be able to take testosterone-blocking drugs.

“Honestly, I’m a little scared now,” she said on Thursday after learning the bill was passed. “But we’re still going to fight no matter what.”

Harley said she expects the governor to veto the bill or have it blocked by a court. Ivey hasn’t indicated whether she plans to sign it.

Alabama is one of several states with Republican-controlled legislatures that have advanced bills to not only block medical treatment, but to ban transgender children from using school restrooms or playing on sports teams that do not match their gender at birth. The Alabama drug bill is one of the most far-reaching: It would put doctors under the age of 19 in prison for up to 10 years for prescribing puberty inhibitors or hormonal treatments for trans children.

Conservative lawmakers say measures are needed to protect the rights of children and parents.

“We rule out all kinds of things that are harmful to minors – alcohol, cigarette smoke, vaping, tattoos – because their brains are not prepared to make decisions about things that could affect them long term, Wes Allen, sponsor of the House edition of the Alabama law. Allen cited public hearing testimony from a woman who said she regretted taking hormone therapy to try to transition to being a man.

“With these powerful drugs that have a detrimental effect on their body over the long term, we just want to put a stop to that … give them a chance to grow and grow out of it,” Allen said.

But opponents say transgender health is being used as a deliberate political wedge issue to propel the voting base – the same way they say the bills have been employed about critical race theory. Critical race theory is a way of thinking about America’s history through the lens of racism. Several Republican-controlled legislatures have proposed bills to block its teaching in public schools.

Measures involving trans youth have drawn swift response from medical experts, the administration of Democratic President Joe Biden, the US Department of Justice, and families of trans youth. Last month, the Justice Department sent a letter to all 50 state attorneys general, warning them that preventing transgender and non-young people from receiving gender-affirming care could be a violation of federal constitutional protections.

“My child is not a political tool. It’s not a fair fight to pick up vulnerable kids,” said Vanessa Finney Tate, the mother of a 13-year-old trans boy in Birmingham, Alabama, after testifying at a public legislative hearing on the bill, which would allow students to use the bathroom. Will stop according to their gender.

Harley’s father, Jeff Walker, noted that many of the same Alabama lawmakers who supported a ban on gender-affirming medical treatments recently argued, ‘It’s your body and your choice’ about coronavirus vaccinations. about. He said the family is now scrambling to find another state where it can continue to take Harley’s medical care.

“We don’t want people to interfere with our medical care,” he said.

Medical groups, including The American Academy of Pediatrics, have publicly opposed efforts to outlaw gender-affirming care.

“Gender-affirming care benefits the health and psychological functioning of transgender and gender-diverse youth,” the Endocrine Society said in a statement. “When a person’s gender identity is not respected and they do not have access to medical care, it can result in higher psychological problem scores and increase the person’s risk of suicide or other acts of self-harm. “

The organization notes that only reversible puberty inhibitors are recommended for younger teens, while older teens may qualify for hormone therapy.

It was only after consulting a team of doctors for years that Harley found the drug—which prevents her from going through male puberty. She said it was “weird” that lawmakers with no medical experience called her drug “child abuse” when six doctors agreed she should have it.

Angus, a 16-year-old trans teen who requested that her last name not be used because of the bullying she received in her northern Alabama town, said she knew in her youth that the mirror was “a body that was not my own”. it shows .”

Coming to his mother, he slowly began to test the waters: dressing up as a man, changing his name. Only after talking to a team of doctors for years, was he recently able to take medicines to stop his periods. The next step, which he is eager to start, will be a small dose of testosterone.

“I’ve waited seven years to finally become a man, the man I’ve always known, I am,” Angus said.

She said bills to stop such treatments are harming, not protecting trans youth.

“The government is saying, ‘Oh, parents are abusing their children by giving them infections,'” he said. “Actually, it is more child abuse to not let them infect if they come out. These bills are actually putting the lives of trans youth at risk as these suicide rates will increase exponentially. And a lot of families will lose their children.”

Similar restrictions are rolling out in other states.

In Texas, Republican Governor Greg Abbott has ordered the state’s child welfare agency to investigate reports of abuse of gender-affirming care for children. And a law in Arkansas bans gender-affirming drugs. However, that law has been blocked by a court.

Trans youth in many red states say they feel attacked, angry, betrayed and feared by the wave of legislation aimed at them.

“It feels like a stab in the back,” Harley said. “I’ve lived in this state my whole life. Just for them to say, ‘Well, you know what, this is an issue that’s really popular on the side of my aisle, so I’ll just raise it and support it. I will do it because it will help me win my election’ – it hurts to see them do that.”

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