On March 27, 2023, a Texas House committee met to debate a bill that would block medical treatment for transgender minors. During the debate, several trans youths spoke to the committee about the risks they face by not receiving care.
Gender-affirming care, defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), encompasses social, psychological, behavioral and medical interventions that are “designed to support and affirm an individual’s gender identity” when conflicting with the gender they were assigned at birth.
House Bill 1686 by Harris County Rep. Dr. Tom Oliverson would ban physicians from providing puberty blockers, hormone therapy and surgery to treat gender dysphoria in patients under 18 years old.
“Without conclusive high-quality evidence, doctors engaging in gender transitioning young people are effectively experimenting on children,” Oliverson said during the debate. “Professional counseling has been a proven alternative that helps girls and boys overcome dysphoria, depression and anxiety disorders.”
However, some experts disagree. The Scientific American argues that a great deal of study has been done on the topic and science behind youth transitioning.
“More than a dozen studies of more than 30,000 transgender and gender-diverse young people consistently show that access to gender-affirming care is associated with better mental health outcomes—and that lack of access to such care is associated with higher rates of suicidality, depression and self-harming behavior,” the site read.
According to The Dallas Morning News, the bill would require the state medical board to revoke the medical licenses of those who continue the treatment. It would also bar taxpayer money to go to those that provide treatment to minors. However, the bill does not block the same treatments for intersex youth, or for non-transgender youth experiencing issues like precocious puberty.
HB1686 would also ban surgical interventions that aid in transition for those under 18. Several doctors testified that genital surgeries are not recommended for minors, but the panel’s GOP members argued that mastectomies are occurring in some cases and need to be stopped.
Dr. Colt St. Amand, a transgender physician, pointed out that surgical interventions would still be allowed to continue for non-transgender minors.
“There are plenty of Texans who are 16 and have had breast augmentation, and there’s no issue with access to that,” he said. “If we’re going to keep allowing that in non-transgender patients, then we shouldn’t have a different standard for transgender patients.”
Maya Stanton, a 12-year-old transgender girl, said she worries about hitting puberty and developing male characteristics. She told the committee that she and other trans kids want to be left alone.
“I know you don’t understand what it’s like to be trans, and that’s OK. You don’t have to. You just have to listen to us when we tell you who we are,” said Stanton. “Do you understand how brave I have to be to come here and tell you over and over again to leave me alone? Close your eyes and imagine for one minute what it’s like to be me.”
The committee, a Republican majority, did not vote on the bill Monday, but can at any future meeting. The committee’s six GOP members signed on as co-authors in favor of the bill, as has the majority of the full Texas House.