NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Transgender children in Tennessee appear likely to lose their access to gender-affirming care after the state Senate passed the proposed ban 26-6.
Before the bill passed out of the upper chamber, the ACLU and Lambda Legal said they were preparing a lawsuit.
The bill would prohibit medical professionals from providing transgender minors with treatments, “for the purpose of enabling a minor to identify with, or live as, a purported identity inconsistent with the minor’s sex,” according to the bill’s text.
“Because this law discriminates on the basis of protected characteristics and infringes on the fundamental rights of transgender youth and their families, it demands a level of legal scrutiny that Tennessee will not be able to meet,” said Chase Strangio, Deputy Director for Transgender Justice at the ACLU’s LGBTQ & HIV Project.
In Arkansas and Alabama, judges have temporarily blocked similar laws.
However, a transgender psychologist with decades of experience treating minors with gender dysmorphia agreed with the bill’s sponsor on one point.
Clinical psychologist Dr. Erica Anderson agreed with Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson when he said some medical providers are too quick to give medications to trans youth.
“Let’s refrain from rushing to surgical and medical things that can’t be undone,” Sen. Johnson said before the bill was taken up for a vote.
Anderson says she has heard from parents and trans children who feel previous doctors have quickly recommended hormone treatments before taking time to fully understand their experience.
“[There are] TikTok videos where people say things like, ‘if a child says they are trans, they are trans. Just give them the hormones.’ And, I think that’s a serious mistake,” Anderson said. “Historically, we haven’t offered gender-affirming hormones unless someone’s mental health issues are well controlled.”
But, she says the state senate’s vote Monday was going too far in the other direction.
“This bill prevents children from undergoing life-altering procedures that they may someday regret,” said Johnson.
“Let’s put children first and look at for them first and let them make this decision as adults,” said Sen. Page Walley (R-Savannah).
Anderson says making kids wait until they are older can be dangerous to some trans kids.
“To say to a 15 or 16-year-old, ‘oh just wait until you are 18. We got a solution for you but you have to wait three years.’ That is inadequate. And in some cases, that comes across as cruel to know of a treatment that might be beneficial and to withhold it from a child who needs it,” Anderson said.
One of the authors of the American Academy of Pediatrics 2018 guidance on gender-affirming care says there’s a misconception about what gender-affirming care looks like.
“[T]he idea that gender affirmative care is following whatever the child wants. That is by no means what we recommend,” said child psychiatrist Dr. Jason Rafferty. “A lot of the nuance we bring to each individual family is being clouded in black and white.”
The House version of the bill is scheduled to come up in the Civil Justice Committee Wednesday.