Transgender youth re-emerge as Utah state chamber focal point

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah lawmakers wasted no time this week returning to an issue that has become a hot topic in the GOP-led state chambers: trying to limit the medical options that doctors can provide to transgender youth.

On the second day of the legislative session, a committee began considering a policy that would prevent minors from receiving gender-affirming medical care, including surgery or puberty blockers. They also began considering a proposal to require schools to notify parents when children want to change the pronouns they go by, and another that would limit when transgender people under the age of 18 can change the sex listed on their birth certificates. .

Each measure advanced through committee in a 5-2 party-line vote.

The proposals reflect how legislators in red states continue to make gender, sexuality and youth issues central to their legislative agenda. As LGBTQ Americans become increasingly visible in popular culture, some social conservatives have mobilized around issues like which bathrooms transgender children can use, which sports teams they can play on, and the health care that transgender children can use. your doctors can prescribe.

This year, 11 states have filed bills that would enact restrictions on doctors prescribing puberty blockers, hormones or surgery for transgender children and teens, regardless of what their parents want. Republicans on Tuesday introduced a transgender health care bill in South Dakota, where a supportive lawmaker called puberty a “natural cure” for gender dysphoria.

State Sen. Mike Kennedy, a Republican family doctor who is sponsoring the Utah proposal, said it did not make sense that gender and youth-related health care policy, which is sometimes reversible and other times irreversible, was not subject to to government supervision.

He acknowledged that the issue was emotional for families of transgender youth, but said it was the government’s responsibility to address issues of child consent and development.

“Caring for our children does not mean riding the latest radical wave,” he said. “We must ask ourselves questions: Does the child understand the long-term ramifications of his decision?”

“We cannot allow social policy to trump science,” she added, advocating for more research on gender dysphoria and noting how medical fields in countries like Finland and Sweden have tightened regulations governing the healthcare of transgender youth. .

Questions about transgender youth and their health care dovetail with another growing Republican priority: parental rights. Jeri Brummett, a transgender woman and member of the Salt Lake County Republican Party, called the proposal excessive government intervention in individual medical decisions.

The bill, he said, “is intended to protect transgender minors from their doctors and parents, but its real effect is to place this Legislature and our state government between parents, their children and their doctors.”

Greg Walker, a Utah father whose daughter identified as transgender “for as long as she could talk,” said it was disheartening to see the health care decisions her family and doctors had made politicized.

At each juncture, before she started on puberty blockers or estrogen, for example, the Walkers and their doctors deliberated carefully, relying on experts like the American Academy of Pediatrics to understand “the risks of doing it and not doing it.”

Walker said he was particularly concerned about the disproportionately high suicide rates among transgender youth and the potential harm that could result from going without treatment.

“As a parent, my first priority is to take care of my son and make sure my son is safe,” Walker said.

In Utah, where most residents and politicians are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, lawmakers have for years focused largely on social issues, including pornography and alcohol. Last year, the Republican-led Legislature enacted a ban on transgender children in women’s sports. It was later challenged in court and put on hiatus. While the case is being reviewed, a commission of experts makes eligibility decisions for transgender youth.

One concern that came up during discussions about eligibility decisions was the use of birth certificates to verify the gender of athletes because transgender people routinely request to change them. The Utah Supreme Court affirmed its right to make the changes two years ago.

State Sen. Dan McCay, a Republican who led the charge for last year’s youth sports ban, said limiting the changes would help Utah enforce its youth sports policy and only affect minors. Opponents who testified at the hearing said the changes to identification documents were an individual liberty issue and deeply emotional for transgender people who don’t want to come out on a daily basis.

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