Health & Science

How Transgender Youth Health Care Bills Also Target Intersex Kids In Texas

The same bills that ban certain procedures on transgender kids and teens would allow them to be performed on intersex kids in Texas.

Alicia Roth Weigel at the Texas State Capitol Rotunda.

Texas lawmakers have made legislating transgender health care a high-profile priority during this session. Some of the bills making their way through the legislature include bills that legislate whether transgender kids and teenagers can access gender affirming treatments and procedures.

But that's not the only group of kids addressed in these bills.

Intersex Texans have also been protesting Senate Bill 1646, which would allow for these same procedures to be performed on intersex children without their informed consent.

“Intersex” is an umbrella term for people born with sex characteristics that fall outside the binary definitions of “male” and “female.” While there are no exact numbers on how many people are born intersex, many researchers have estimated nearly 2% of the world’s population is born on the spectrum between male and female. That includes hormones, chromosomes, internal sex organs like ovaries or testes, genitals, and other sex characteristics.

“Two percent — that’s the same percentage of people in the world born with red hair,” said Alicia Roth Weigel, an intersex advocate and member of Austin's Human Rights Commission. “I like to tell people, if you’ve ever met a redhead, you’ve definitely met an intersex person. You just likely did not know it.”

Weigel spoke to Houston Public Media about why these GOP-led bills are alarming to Texans like her.

Read or listen to our interview below, edited for length and clarity.

The bills seek to ban health care services like puberty blockers, hormone therapy and surgeries for trans kids. But how would that affect intersex kids?

Not just in Texas, but states across the country, these bills often include a specific loophole that pertains to intersex kids. That might be why a lot of people read these bills and don’t even realize that they're as much about intersex kids as they are about trans kids.

These specific loopholes block gender affirming procedures for trans kids who want them, and yet force them on intersex kids who may not even be asking for them. I think that is the whole crux of this. This isn’t about logic. This isn’t about what’s healthiest for children. This is purely about what is considered normal in the eyes of Texas legislators and saying, trans kids are not "normal," so let’s block them from being able to realize their true selves, because that true self is not "normal." And yet intersex kids are born not "normal," and so let’s make sure that we can "normalize" their bodies, whether or not they’re asking for that to happen.

What has the intersex conversation surrounding these bills sounded like from your perspective?

I’m so glad that trans issues finally have a spotlight on them. It’s much deserved, it’s taken far too long. That being said, these also affect intersex people, and yet our voices are so rarely included.

This whole bill, yes, it's against trans kids, but there's pages defining intersex conditions. They talk about 46 chromosomes with under-virilization. That's me. Someone reading this bill doesn't even necessarily understand how much this attacks intersex people because there's just such a general lack of understanding and awareness of what intersex even means.

You personally have had a procedure done without your consent. How has that decision impacted the rest of your life?

In my experience, my testes would have produced testosterone just like anyone else’s testes, but my body would have naturally converted that testosterone into estrogen.

So if they would have left my testes intact, I would have developed normally. But because they did this surgery, it basically put me into hormone withdrawal as a child. The closest analogous experience I can come up with would be like menopause, so like lower bone density, mental fog, depression. I was experiencing that as a kid rather than as a 60-something-year old woman.

My parents were told by the doctors that I could get cancer in my testes one day. If you think about the experience of a parent, if you’re being told that your kid might get cancer, of course, you’re going to do whatever in your power to ensure that that doesn’t happen to keep your child safe.

That being said, the risk of getting cancer is less than 5%. I never got to have a conversation like, "hey, you know, there’s a chance that you might get cancer one day." You know, that conversation never happened. So they took away my right to decide when and whether to have children. They took away my ability to exist in the world without the need for supplemental hormones to stay healthy. So they really just took away my body autonomy. By making this life-altering and medically unnecessary decision without my consent, they changed the trajectory of my entire life when I was less than a year old.

Subscribe to Today in Houston

Fill out the form below to subscribe our new daily editorial newsletter from the HPM Newsroom.

* required

Share