Idaho House to vote on bill banning transgender care for minors

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The Idaho House State Affairs Committee on Friday sent a bill that would criminalize gender-affirming care for transgender children to the House floor.

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Victor Pruett no longer spends his lunch hour in the school cafeteria. The 13-year-old student living in Idaho Falls said bullies kept targeting him because he was transgender and the fear got too much.

“Every day I feel like someone is going to do something to me at school,” Pruett told the Idaho Statesman by phone.

Pruett came out as transgender at the end of 2021 and already finds herself regularly confronted by bullies. He eventually wants to take medication, like puberty blockers and hormones, to feel more comfortable in his body.

“I want to feel more like a man, because I don’t like how feminine I am,” he said.

But he may not be so lucky. an invoice that would criminalize medical care providers in the state for providing gender-affirming care to transgender children went through a committee hearing Friday in the Idaho Legislature, and is now awaiting a vote by the full House.

The bill not only prohibits sex reassignment surgeries, which are not usually performed on minors, but also prohibits any type of medication a child might take to make their body more accurately reflect their gender identity. It would amend an existing law that prohibits female genital mutilation.

Surgeries for trans minors remain rare

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Bruce Skaug, a Nampa Republican, declined to comment for this story. But he told the House State Affairs Committee that the children were too young to make potentially permanent decisions about their gender.

“If we don’t allow minors to get tattoos, drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, why would you allow them to undergo these physical mutilations because of their feelings at the time?” Skaug said. “Our world is changing, and not in a good way.”

If the bill becomes law, Idaho would become the fourth state — after Texas, Arkansas and Tennessee — to ban transitional care for minors. Legal challenges have already been filed against these laws.

Several transgender children in Idaho have testified about their experiences with gender-affirming care. Eve Devitt, a 16-year-old transgender girl in Boise, told lawmakers the prospect of going through puberty while a man made her contemplate suicide.

“The only reason I’m still alive today is because I was able to get the care I needed,” she said. “This bill threatens to put me and so many other kids like me back into that horrible mental state I was in before I started hormones.”

Much of the hearing focused on the possibility of children in Idaho having sex reassignment surgeries. Skaug said he was made aware of instances of this happening in Idaho, but did not provide specific examples.

Dr. Ashley Davis, a family physician in Boise, told the Idaho statesman that she had treated transgender adults and children for 15 years and had never seen a child who had underwent sex reassignment surgery.

“I’ve never seen any kind of bottom surgery done (on kids),” Davis said by phone. “Nobody maims anybody.”

She said a decision for a child to start gender-affirming care usually comes after several lengthy discussions with the child and their parents.

American Medical Association opposes Idaho bill

Several studies support gender-affirming treatment for transgender children, who are at higher risk for self-harm and suicide. This includes a 2021 study in the Journal of Adolescent Health who found that such treatments could reduce depression in minors with gender dysphoria by up to 40%.

Skaug and other witnesses in favor of the bill said there was not enough evidence to suggest that these treatments had an impact on mental health.

LGBTQ advocates have argued that eliminating access to these types of care could worsen a child’s gender dysphoria, which could have disastrous physical and mental consequences.

Last year, the American Medical Association urged governors to oppose any bills restricting access to gender-affirming care, saying it “could lead to tragic health consequences, both mental and physical”. A representative from the Idaho Medical Association also testified Friday against the bill.

Most of those who spoke out in favor of the bill were not in Idaho, and many have regularly testified for anti-transgender legislation across the country.

Dr. Quentin Van Meter, an endocrinologist in Georgia, testified at Friday’s hearing and testified in Pennsylvania and Ohio in support of anti-transgender laws in those states. A Texas judge ruled in 2020 that Van Meter could not offer expert testimony on transgender issues affecting children.

This isn’t the first time the Idaho Legislature has considered legislation that would restrict the rights of transgender children. Governor Brad Little signed a 2020 bill that barred transgender girls from playing on women‘s sports teams, the first example of a law that was quickly imitated in state houses across the United States

Idaho’s transgender children will have to wait for the rest of the legislature to vote on the latest bill. For Pruett, the possibility of not receiving medication in the future is “heartbreaking,” he said.

Jennifer Convery, Pruett’s mother, said that even though they had been living in Idaho for less than a year, she was beginning to consider moving to a different state that would be more tolerant, with laws more favorable to transgender children. like his son.

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Joni Auden Land covers Boise, Garden City and Ada County. Do you have a story suggestion or a question? Email [email protected]

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