Health & Science

Transgender Advocates Decry Efforts To Ban Transition Health Care For Texas Kids

Critics say a slate of bills aimed at health care for trans kids are harmful examples of government overreach, and aren’t backed by science.

Lisa Stanton, right, with her daughter on April 14, 2021. Stanton spoke at a press conference against legislation criminalizing some health care for transgender youth.

Advocates for transgender Texans spoke out Wednesday against a group of bills filed in the state legislature that would criminalize transition health care for trans youth.

In one bill, parents who allow their child to take medication like puberty blockers or hormone therapy, or undergo gender-affirming surgeries would be charged with child abuse. Another bill would strip physicians who provide these types of services of their license or liability insurance.

Lisa Stanton, the mother of a transgender girl in Houston, said during a rally at the statehouse Wednesday that the bills are an example of governmental overreach, and that such decisions should be made by kids, parents and their physicians.

"Our government should not be intruding on what should be a family matter," Stanton said. "Before my daughter transitioned socially, she was sad, depressed, anxious. She is now a thriving, happy child. That is all the evidence I need to know that I am providing the best care for my child."

According to Equality Texas, more than 30 anti-LGBTQ bills have been filed during this legislative session. At least five deal with criminalizing or delicensing for transition therapy. Some have also tried to ban transgender kids from participating in single-sex sports.

Similar bills have been filed in states across the country, including in Arkansas, which recently voted to ban treatments for transgender minors.

State Sen. Bob Hall, who introduced a bill that would penalize physicians for providing transition care, said the law would not be that different from other ways the government protects children.

“We don’t let children get tattoos, smoke tobacco, drink alcohol, use a tanning bed, get a concealed handgun license, buy spray paint or vote," Hall said.

State Sen. Charles Perry, who authored a bill that would redefine child abuse, testified that the lesiglation protects the safety and wellbeing of children, calling such health care choices irreversible and “life changing.”

During Wednesday’s rally, Dr. Aliza Norwood, Medical Director at Vivent Health Austin, said that some treatments like puberty blockers can be an appropriate course of treatment for adolescents.

"They act as a pause button to allow kids more time for decision making, and they reduce the risk of more invasive procedures later," Norwood said. "These bills are based on a lack of knowledge and a misunderstanding of what age appropriate gender affirming care is."

Medical leaders across the country like the American Academy for Pediatrics have spoken out against these bills and have emphasized the importance of comprehensive, gender-affirming health care for trans youth.

Beyond impacting health care access, advocacy groups the Human Rights Campaign say such bills promote discrimination against the transgender community, and trans children in particular.

Landon Richie, a transgender freshman at the University of Houston, has testified against similar legislation for the last three sessions.

"Trans youth are seeing these bills that tell them they don’t know who they are and that their parents are child abusers for affirming them," Richie said. "That is incorrect. And that sends the message to trans youth that they do not belong."

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to clarify that Dr. Norwood’s comments referred specifically to puberty blockers, not all gender-affirming treatment.

Sara Willa Ernst is a corps member with Report For America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Sara’s work at Houston Public Media is made possible with support from KERA in Dallas.

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