Bill blocking minor gender transitions moves ahead

Published 9:18 pm Friday, February 28, 2020

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By Sarah Mountain

A bill banning hormone and puberty-blocking therapies for minors is headed to the House of Representatives after a standing-room only committee hearing on Wednesday.

The Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act, sponsored by Rep. Wes Allen R-Troy, calls for a ban on all procedures and prescriptions for minors which have the intent of altering the minor’s gender or halting puberty.

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The bill also requires school officials to report any concerns about gender dysphoria or identity issues to a minor’s parents, making failure to report a Class A misdemeanor.

Allen said his only goal in presenting this bill is “protecting children.”

“I recognize that there are children who are struggling with gender dysphoria,” he said. “We should help those children with therapeutic treatment from qualified mental health professionals, not allowing these children’s bodies to be permanently mutilated.”

An overflow crowd attended the committee meeting, and members allowed five speakers from the public in both support and opposition of the bill.

Supporters of the bill suggested that the scientific evidence behind hormone treatments is not substantial enough to deem those treatments safe, referring to the procedures as experimental treatments on minors.

Sydney Wright, a former transgender male who ultimately de-transitioned, gave her account of the procedures and process of transitioning. She testified that the therapists and endocrinologists she visited “just did not care,” prescribed her the hormones and told her “to go home and watch YouTube videos to figure it out.”

Wright said this led to her spending eight months incorrectly administering the hormones herself at home, and recounted that the testosterone led to numerous other health issues, including weight gain, dangerous blood clotting and pre-diabetic symptoms.

“I almost died from these symptoms,” Wright said. “I did all this at the age of 18 and I cannot begin to fathom someone younger than that (having) to make that decision. They do not know what it’s (the hormone therapy) going to do to you, and they do not care.”

Patrick Lappert, a plastic surgeon and supporter of the bill, questioned the necessity of such procedures at all. He supported the “watchful wait” approach in which the child and family wait to see if the dysphoria eliminates itself.

“If you just do the watchful waiting, support the child, love the child educate the child, encourage them with the truths of human life, the odds are vastly in favor of their getting over it without any intervention medically or through surgery,” Lappert said. “There is a 70 to 90 percent likelihood of aligning their sex identity with their physical sex by the time they reach adulthood.”

Opponents of the bill focused on the psychologic aspects of the issue, describing those as a matter of life and death.

Dan Eggers, a transgender teenager, shared his firsthand experience with the suicidal tendencies among transgender minors. “(The suicidal thoughts) only got worse over the years until I was 11 and puberty started, (then) I attempted suicide,” said Eggers. “To cope with my changing body, I developed a deadly eating disorder.

“Had I not received the treatment that I did when I was 16, I would not be alive right now.”

Laura Embry, a clinical psychologist in Birmingham, said she’s seen firsthand the anguish of families who have a member struggling with body dysphoria. Embry believes these treatments during adolescence keep people alive.

“What this bill describes is not what happens,” Embry said. “First, no one in Alabama is doing (gender reassignment) surgeries on kids.

“Second, all the therapies that are offered to families up to 16 years of age like puberty blockers and counseling are totally reversible. Third, kids are not and cannot seek these therapies without their full family supporting and being a part of the process.”

Cynthia Lamar Hart, an attorney at Maynard Cooper Gale, has represented 150 transgender families in her 30 years of experience., She strongly opposed the bill saying that “our children need to be protected from this bill.” Hart cited evidence from pediatricians who outlined the bill as “grossly inaccurate” and using fear-inducing language.

Upon the close of public commentary, Rep. Neil Rafferty, D-Birmingham, motioned to create a subcommittee to review the bill before proceeding, saying that the passing of this bill would leave the House members with blood on their hands.

Rafferty called on any opposition to the bill to stand and remind the committee members of their responsibility to those people.

Rep. Pebblin Warren, D-Montgomery, said she felt uncomfortable with the differing evidence presented with the bill and requested hard numbers from Allen on the numbers of cases within the state. Additionally, she expressed the thought that this bill was not something for the government to determine.

“People are living and dealing with this every day,” Warren said. “I personally don’t think we are to judge what a person wants to do with their body.

“As we get into decisions of this nature that involves one’s bodies, one’s religious beliefs, the way you live your life, as legislators we’re going a little bit too far.”

Rep. Joe Lovvorn, R-Auburn, showed support for the bill but proposed an amendment removing the stipulation regarding mandatory reporting. This amendment passed without opposition.

The bill passed through the House Health Committee via voice vote and will be presented to the full House of Representatives for consideration. The Senate Health Committee passed the same bill under the title SB 219 with a vote of 10-1 and heads to the full Senate for consideration.