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Gender-affirming care for minors would be banned under bill passed by Ky. House

Christy and Max Davis hold signs showing support for trans rights, including a sign that says, "Gender-affirming care saves lives." They came to the Kentucky Capitol Thursday to protest a bill that would ban gender-affirming medical care for children.
Jess Clark
Louisville Public Media
Christy and Max Davis came to the Kentucky Capitol Thursday to protest a bill that would prevent trans and nonbinary children from receiving certain types of gender-affirming medical care. Max is an 11-year-old trans boy from Louisville.

Experts warn that blocking access to these health care services will endanger the mental health – and ultimately the lives – of trans and nonbinary children.

This story mentions suicide and mental health issues. If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, you can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by phone at 988, or online at https://988lifeline.org/.

If you’re in need of transgender peer support, you can reach Trans Kentucky at 859-448-5428 or online at transkentucky.com. You can also contact the Trevor Project, which provides free, confidential counselors who specialize in helping LGBTQ youth.

The Republican-led state House of Representatives passed a bill Thursday that would prevent transgender children from receiving various types of gender-affirming medical care in Kentucky.

The vote happened after transgender people, advocates and representatives for the Kentucky Medical Association and the Kentucky Psychological Association publicly urged lawmakers to reject the proposal. They warned that blocking access to these health care services will endanger the mental health – and ultimately the lives – of trans and nonbinary children, many of whom already experience suicidal thoughts.

“If somebody decided they were going to deny you medically necessary care that would save your life, how would you feel?” Miles Joyner, a licensed clinical social worker and trans man, told lawmakers. “I want you to think about that, because that is what this bill is proposing.”

Fourteen Republican lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee cleared the bill for a full vote in the House after hearing testimony from Joyner and other advocates for trans rights. A few Republicans joined Democrats voting against it after expressing concerns about the bill, including how it would prevent parents from deciding what care their child should receive.

“I think that we have some very very smart people testifying today but I don’t feel it’s our position to interfere in the lives of families,” said Republican Rep. Kim Banta, of Ft. Mitchell.

As the House debated and eventually voted to pass House Bill 470 75 to 22, LGBTQ people and allies protested in the Kentucky Capitol and their voices could be heard from the House floor.

Under the bill, various health care providers would get their professional licenses revoked in Kentucky if they provide hormone therapy, puberty blockers that delay puberty (and are reversible) or surgical procedures to someone under 18 years old as part of transition-related care.

Generally speaking, gender-affirming care already is difficult for trans minors and adults to access. Experts say the decision for a trans person under 18 years old to receive puberty blockers or hormone therapy is reached through careful consultations between the child, their parents and their health care providers, as recommended by major medical associations.

It’s incredibly rare for a minor to receive any form of gender-affirming surgery.

“This bill asks me to go against the American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association. How can you ask professionals to do that?” Joyner told lawmakers Thursday.

Research has shown trans and nonbinary youths who've received gender-affirming care, which includes but is not limited to the medical services HB 470 would prohibit, have experienced reductions in depression and suicidal thoughts.

A 2022 national survey by a suicide prevention organization called The Trevor Project indicated over 50% of trans and nonbinary youths had seriously considered suicide within the last year.

Rep. Jennifer Decker, a Republican from Waddy and the bill’s sponsor, said she is concerned children could be hurt in irreversible ways if they receive the gender-affirming services her bill would prohibit.

“I have great compassion for the children, parents and their families who are in this situation. However, ultimately, it is our obligation to protect children from irreparable harm,” Decker said. “The state has a compelling interest in protecting children from decisions that cause irreparable harm.”

When Decker presented her bill to the House Judiciary Committee, four people testified alongside her in support of the proposal. Three of them do not live in Kentucky and have publicly supported anti-trans legislation in other states, including Dr. Andre Van Mol of California, who’s affiliated with the American College of Pediatricians – an organization the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated as an anti-LGBTQ hate group.

HB 470 is one of several bills Republican lawmakers have introduced in Kentucky this year that could negatively affect LGBTQ people. Here and in other states, right-wing officials increasingly are pursuing policies that would restrict trans children and adults’ access to gender-affirming care and their ability to participate in sports and other aspects of public life.

Kentucky’s legislature passed a law last year that banned trans girls and women from participating in girls’ and women’s school sports teams from middle school through college, for example. And a bill that would allow public school teachers to misgender trans students already cleared the state Senate this year.

Support for this story was provided in part by theJewish Heritage Fund.

Morgan is LPM's health & environment reporter. Email Morgan at mwatkins@lpm.org.

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