Hundreds of transgender advocates and medical experts gathered at the Ohio statehouse on Wednesday to speak out against a proposed ban on gender-affirming care for trans youth.
This week, the Ohio senate government oversight committee discussed a bill from state representative Gary Click, a Republican, who championed legislation that would prohibit doctors from offering gender-affirming care to transgender patients under the age of 18. The bill would also block transgender female student athletes from participating in women’s sports.
Cam Ogden, a transgender rights activist and Ohio college student, stood in the statehouse for 17 hours on Wednesday. She and other protesters gathered around a television in the building’s atrium.
“So many people showed up to speak out that even the overflow rooms were packed full,” Ogden said. “I’ve been coming to the statehouse for two years now, I’ve never seen something like that, with so many people showing up to speak on a bill.”
One by one, Ogden watched parents, doctors, high school students and teenage athletes take the podium to testify against the bill’s passage. Earlier this year, the Ohio house received more than 600 written testimonies from people who oppose the ban on gender-affirming care, compared with just 56 in support of the legislation.
Despite overwhelming and steady opposition, the Ohio house passed the bill in June, clearing the path for the senate’s Republican supermajority to send the bill to the desk of Governor Mike DeWine, also a Republican.
Click, the bill’s lead sponsor, said in a statement earlier this year that a ban on gender-affirming care for transgender children would “ensure that children and adolescents receive only the best and safest healthcare”.
“Save the adulting for adults and let kids be kids,” the Ohio lawmaker said.
In May, the Ohio Capitol Journal resurfaced a 2018 sermon given by Click, a pastor at the Fremont Baptist church. In the video, titled The Value of Family, Click criticized a California law banning conversion therapy for LGBTQ+ people.
“God does not approve of that lifestyle,” Click said of LGBTQ+ people in the sermon.
Among the most vocal opponents to Click’s legislation are Ohio’s top doctors and medical experts.
Nick Lashutka, the president of the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association, testified on Wednesday, saying the bill “strips away” the rights of parents with transgender children. Notably, Ohio hospitals do not offer gender-affirming care to young patients without the consent of a parent or guardian.
Lashutka also noted that the state has a “standard of care” wherein “an intensive, multidisciplinary team assesses each patient”. Before medical intervention starts, the transgender child needs to present with “persistent, insistent and consistent” symptoms of gender dysphoria, Lashutka said in testimony.
“These youth existed before we established our gender clinics, and they will exist if our clinics are forced to close,” he said.
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Opponents of the bill say it is a more extreme iteration of a Missouri law enacted in August, which prohibits the state’s doctors from providing gender-affirming treatments to children. In Missouri, minors who began puberty blockers or hormones before the law’s enactment are allowed to continue on those medications, but other minors will not have access to those drugs.
The Ohio bill, by comparison, “does not include a grandfather clause that would allow minors currently on hormone replacement therapy to continue that care”, said Mallory Golski, civic engagement and advocacy manager at Kaleidoscope Youth Center, a Columbus-based non-profit that advocates for LGBTQ+ youth in Ohio.
Transgender youth who had already started hormone treatments would be forced to medically detransition until they turn 18. Doctors and parents worry that the change will wreak havoc on the mental health of transgender children in the state.
Last year, a report from the Trevor Project found that nearly 34,000 queer and trans youth ages 13 to 24 suffered from alarmingly high rates of suicide attempts, depression and anxiety. More than 50% of transgender and non-binary youth in states across the US seriously considered suicide in 2022.
“Puberty blockers buy time for an individual to explore their core identity, ” Dr Kate Krueck, an Ohio pediatrician, said in her testimony on Wednesday.
Krueck was among the dozens of parents of transgender children who addressed the senate committee this week.
She added: “Gender-affirming care saves lives.”
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