Louisville parents worry about how new legislation will affect their transgender kids
Two local parents said the gender-affirming treatments their daughters depend on would be banned under Senate Bill 150.
This story mentions briefly suicide and mental health issues. If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, you can reach the national Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by phone at 988, or online at https://988lifeline.org/.
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Some parents with transgender children are scared about what could happen to their kids if anti-trans legislation Kentucky lawmakers passed last week becomes law.
Amy Parish and Jonathan Lowe each have trans daughters who receive gender-affirming medical care in the state. The hormone-related treatments their kids depend on would be banned, through Senate Bill 150, for patients under 18 years old.
“We’ve been receiving great care,” said Lowe, 60. “And the fact that that’s going to be taken away from us endangers the life of my child and many other transgender kids.”
Surveys indicate young trans and nonbinary people experience suicidal thoughts at especially high rates. And research shows trans people who've received gender-affirming care – as recommended by major medical associations – have seen reductions in such thoughts and in depression.
Even though this is a difficult time for their families, Lowe and Parish, who both live in the Louisville area, find so much joy in being the parents of trans children.
Parish, 45, recounted a moment she and her daughter recently had at a grocery store. They were checking out and the cashier said, “You ladies have a nice night.”
“Her face was lit up, and she said, ‘Mom, she called us ladies.’ … And I’m sure the cashier didn’t even think twice about what she was saying. But for her it was enormous, and that kind of joy has been really amazing to share with her,” Parish said.
Lowe likewise said having trans kids is wonderful. Along with his daughter, he also has a child in college who uses they/them pronouns.
“Having trans kids is just amazing. And I feel, you know, I won the gender identity lottery, that I have two of them in my family,” he said. “And the fact that we have to spend our time fighting for their lives instead of celebrating their being is such a hard thing.”
Lowe and Parish said their families are trying to figure out what to do if the measure becomes law.
The Republican-led legislature rapidly revamped and passed a new version of SB 150 -- which initially focused mainly on sex education and pronoun use in public schools -- in one afternoon last week. It includes:
- A ban on certain types of gender-affirming medical care for trans youth, including treatments that delay puberty and hormone therapy;
- Requirements for public schools that would let teachers misgender trans students and prevent those students from using bathrooms that match their gender identity;
- Rules that generally would prevent public schools from allowing educational presentations that study gender identity or sexual orientation.
Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear must decide whether to veto the bill or let it take effect. If he vetoes it, though, the legislature’s GOP supermajorities have the power to override.
The ACLU of Kentucky has indicated it plans to sue if it becomes law.
Parish and Lowe spoke with LPM News Monday, just four days after almost every Republican (and two Democrats) in the legislature voted to approve the bill.
“I don’t really quite understand all the implications for my child,” Parish said. “I don’t even think the lawmakers who voted on this understand the implications.”
Parish and her husband are grappling with the prospect that the legislature may prevent their daughter from receiving medical care that they’ve carefully determined – in consultation with health care professionals – that she needs.
They don’t want to leave Kentucky, but they aren’t discounting that possibility.
“We have bug-out plans in our house,” Parish said. “All of our vacations over the last year have been spent looking at other states where we might move.”
In addition to the ban on gender-affirming medical care, Lowe brought up serious concerns about how SB 150’s requirements for public schools could affect his daughter and other trans kids.
Lowe, who works for Jefferson County Public Schools, said his daughter goes to a “wonderful, affirming” school, and he expects she’ll still be treated with dignity there, even if the bill becomes law.
However, he said there could be a teacher who decides to misgender her under the bill’s rules. And she could be forced to use a different bathroom.
“The intentional misgendering of students by adults in a school is really bullying of children by adults,” Lowe said. “And forcing kids to use the bathroom that's not aligned with their gender identity puts them in danger … of assault and bullying and taunting and terrible things.”
Lowe and Parish said it was awful to watch the legislature pass this legislation. And they worry about how hard it has been on trans kids.
Parish and her husband waited a couple days before they told their daughter. That Thursday, she said, had otherwise been “a really great day for my kiddo.”
“She had some really amazing successes at school that day,” she said. “And we just didn’t have the heart to tell her.”