Health Care , Culture & the Family

Ray Carter | April 12, 2023

Youth sex-change-surgery ban clears another hurdle

Ray Carter

Saying youth should be given time to address mental-health issues before making decisions that can negatively impact their health for decades, members of a House committee have advanced legislation to make it illegal for medical officials to perform transgender surgeries on children.

“This ban would give students a cushion of time before they made long-term, life-altering decisions,” said state Rep. Toni Hasenbeck, R-Elgin.

Senate Bill 613, by state Sen. Julie Daniels and Hasenbeck, states, “A health care provider shall not knowingly provide gender transition procedures to any child.”

The legislation defines “gender transition procedures” to include surgical procedures that alter or remove physical or anatomical characteristics or features that are typical for the individual’s biological sex, puberty-blocking drugs, cross-sex hormones, or other drugs to suppress or delay normal puberty or promote development of feminizing or masculinizing features.

Medical officials who participate in a gender-transition procedure performed on a minor would lose their license under the bill. Medical officials who violate the law could also face civil lawsuits from former patients subjected to gender transition procedures or lawsuits filed by family members of former patients.

Hasenbeck, a former teacher, recalled one child she encountered who is representative of those who would benefit from passage of SB 613.

“I have had a child talk to me about suicide,” Hasenbeck said. “She told me she didn’t know if she wanted to be a boy. She didn’t know if she wanted to be a girl. And I think at that point in her life, the most important thing that she needed was an embrace of mental health. And I personally could not imagine her, a child, being a person to decide whether or not she needed to have surgery that might change the state of her mental health.”

Hasenbeck said other individuals have reached out to her to discuss the issue.

“I have also had a couple of people contact me who have begun transition surgery who felt like it was a tragic mistake, and they wish that someone would have spent more time with them and helped them manage their mental health before they started making physical changes to their body,” Hasenbeck said.

She noted the impact of hormone therapy on an individual’s health can be significant, noting friends who had cancers treated with hormone therapy when they were young.

“Now that they are approaching their 50s and 60s, they have a myriad of other problems that no one anticipated when they started altering their hormones at such a young age,” Hasenbeck said.

The legislation is advancing as awareness of the mental-health problems of transgender-identifying youth is increasing.

For example, a recent study by Northwestern University psychology professor Michael Bailey analyzed survey data from 1,655 parents of youth and young adult children who identified as the opposite sex or non-binary.

On average, the youths were reported to be 14.8 years old when they became gender dysphoric.

The data showed 57 percent of those youth had a history of mental health issues and 42.5 percent had received a formal psychological diagnosis.

The research also showed 72.6 percent of respondents said that stressful events in the child’s life may have contributed to the onset of gender dysphoria. In some instances, the youth had suffered severe physical or sexual abuse, and several respondents mentioned that a friend or relative had committed suicide.

When asked to rate the effects of social transition on a child’s gender dysphoria, anxiety, and depression, the report noted, “Parents were much more likely to say that the youth had worsened than improved.”

“One statistically robust finding was both disturbing and seemingly important,” the report stated. “Youths with a history of mental health issues were especially likely to have taken steps to socially and medically transition. This relationship held even after statistically adjusting for likely confounders (e.g., age). The finding is concerning because youth with mental health issues may be especially likely to lack judgment necessary to make these important, and in the case of medical transition permanent, decisions. The finding supports the worries of parents whose preferences differ from their gender dysphoric children.”

While the parents who participated in the survey were involved in the support group Parents of Rapid-Onset Gender Dysphoria (ROGD) Kids, and therefore were not supportive of their child’s desire to transition genders, the report concluded there is no reason to treat those parents’ observations as less reliable than those of other parents.

That study is also bolstered by the results of a recent survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) and The Washington Post. That survey found that 78 percent of transgender-identifying adults reported experiencing “serious mental health problems, such as depression or anxiety,” as children, compared to just 32 percent of all adults.

Although the bill received strong support from lawmakers, state Rep. Trish Ranson opposed it, saying the legislation would hamper business-recruitment efforts. Transgender activism has become a fashionable cause among some large corporations.

“We are further victimizing already marginalized communities rather than working together to find out how to make Oklahoma a top 10 state to encourage businesses to come to our state,” said Ranson, D-Stillwater.

She also said the bill might prevent youth from obtaining breast-reduction surgery or laser-hair removal procedures.

SB 613 passed the House Public Health Committee on a 6-1 vote. The bill now proceeds to the floor of the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

Ray Carter Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter

Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter is the director of OCPA’s Center for Independent Journalism. He has two decades of experience in journalism and communications. He previously served as senior Capitol reporter for The Journal Record, media director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman. As a reporter for The Journal Record, Carter received 12 Carl Rogan Awards in four years—including awards for investigative reporting, general news reporting, feature writing, spot news reporting, business reporting, and sports reporting. While at The Oklahoman, he was the recipient of several awards, including first place in the editorial writing category of the Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives Carl Rogan Memorial News Excellence Competition for an editorial on the history of racism in the Oklahoma legislature.

Loading Next