The Latest Front In the Right's Anti-Trans Culture War

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Joining Republican lawmakers in Texas, Georgia, Illinois, and Kentucky, a Republican lawmaker in South Carolina now wants to ban and penalize gender-affirming care for trans children, filing a bill that turns the right’s latest talking point in their war on trans rights—that supporting trans children and teens is akin to child abuse—into legislation.

On Wednesday, which perhaps not incidentally was the Trans Day of Remembrance, Republican state representative Stewart Jones prefiled the “Youth Gender Reassignment Prevention Act,” which seeks to prevent someone under the age of 18 from undergoing gender-affirming medical treatment, including the use of puberty blockers. The bill also targets health care professionals who treat trans children; under the bill, they could face having their medical license revoked.

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According to the Post and Courier, Jones drafted the bill in response to the case of seven-year-old Luna Younger, whose parents’ custody battle became a highly publicized flashpoint for conservatives, who falsely and hyperbolically charged Younger’s mother, who was supportive of her child’s gender identity, with wanting to “chemically castrate” Luna. Kentucky State Representative Savannah Maddox also referenced Younger in her Facebook post announcing that she had begun to draft a similar bill for the 2020 legislative season.

Jones, in explaining his rationale for the bill he filed on Wednesday, compared transitioning to buying alcohol and cigarettes. “For a child, it’s a whole different matter,” Jones said to the Post and Courier, raising the phantom of kids “being pressured or bullied in any kind of circumstance to have their gender reassigned.”

To Jones, medical care has been “weaponized, and this is to protect children.” But it’s obvious that the exact opposite is true—as many, many, many health care professionals and medical associations have made clear, and as all reputable guidelines state, the best way to support trans children and any child who is “gender-diverse,” as the American Academy of Pediatrics puts it, is by taking a gender-affirming approach.

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As Dr. Joshua Safer, a leading trans health advocate, told Vox, “The standard approach when kids are gender expansive—when they say they’re transgender, when they think they’re transgender, whatever that might happen, to get a clue that this might be going on—is pretty much to listen to the kid and to kind of follow their guidance in terms of what they want to do, what the child wants to do.” Safer added, contrary to the fearmongering by anti-trans activists, “There is no medical intervention of any sort prior to someone hitting puberty.” Even then, hormones are typically only prescribed when someone turns 16.

Having largely lost their legislative battles over bathroom access, conservative lawmakers are now turning to using trans children as political fodder in their efforts to attack trans rights. Taking a page from the anti-abortion playbook, they are recognizing that painting children as the victims of both parents and a medical establishment eager to abuse them could be a winning issue.

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But it’s clear the losers would be the children and teens they purport to care so much about. As the trans activist Gillian Branstetter told NBC, these bills if passed “would criminalize health care saving the lives of hundreds of thousands of transgender adolescents across the nation.” She added, “Such an extreme rejection of the scientific consensus would not only destroy lives; it would end lives.”

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About the author

Esther Wang

Senior staff writer, Jezebel