Long-time conservative calls Ohio anti-trans bills ‘assault wave of rhetoric’

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – A controversial proposal that would keep transgender girls from competing in sports and ban gender-affirming care for minors is now in the hands of the Ohio Senate.

The Ohio House passed the Republican-backed bill along party lines, with supporters insisting young people are being pressured to change their genders.

It’s legislation that’s been closely watched by a self-described, life-long conservative Republican and his transgender son, who said it’s not external pressure, but an internal struggle.

“I did it because I knew it was the right, next-best thing in my life and I wouldn’t have done it if it wasn’t fully something that my heart and my mind and my spirit told me was the best thing for me,” said Ashton Colby. “So absolutely no pressure. And I’m so happy I did transition.”

“Transgender people, the folks that I’ve met, dear souls, young people trying to figure it out, you know, deep crisis,” said Rick Colby, Ashton’s father. “And a lot of times, it’s a spiritual crisis: ‘Who am I? Why am I here?’ And they’re trying to figure it out, and to see this assault wave of rhetoric against them…”

Rick Colby has been a loyal Republican since Ronald Reagan was in the White House, but he doesn’t recognize the party that’s expending so much time and energy opposing trans rights.

“To think that there would be bills and laws being run, I mean, it’s horrifying,” Rick said. “It’s completely out of touch with reality. And I had to step up and get involved because, like I said, it was being portrayed as this left-wing thing, and it’s not.”

Both Rick and Ashton testified against the trans legislation that supporters insist will protect trans youth.

“We’re seeing a trend in our nation and in our state towards the idea that gender-affirming care, you know, mutilating a child’s body or giving him a hormone, or cross-sex hormones, or puberty blockers somehow benefits the child,” Ohio Rep. Josh Williams (R-41st District) said. “And we’re simply saying that, you know, we shouldn’t allow children to make that decision when they’re so young.”

Ashton Colby was 19 when he transitioned, but said he was six when he first recognized his masculine core. He is grateful for his father and his community.

“Luckily, in the Columbus area, I’ve had a ton of support,” Ashton said. “I have had friends support me. I’ve had people that I work with support me. My family has grown to learn how to support me even better over these years. So I am grateful that I live in Columbus. We have great protections here.”

But in the heart of Columbus, at the Ohio Statehouse, things could soon change for trans youth.

“Well, it’s stopping a permanent transition in their body, something that’s irreversible, you know?” Williams said. “Cutting off female body parts, male body parts, transitioning them internally, changing their structure, causing bone density losses, these are permanent effects of care that you’re trying to give to children that are, well, young.”

“I would say that your life is worth living, is worth sticking around,” Ashton said. “You will get to a place like I’m at where you’re happy and healthy and aligned in every area of your life. It might take time and I know that, sometimes, it looks like it’s getting worse before it gets better, but keep the faith. I truly believe that society is becoming more accepting, more loving, and there’s a lot more love out there in the world.”

“If you truly love your child, you will accept them, no matter what,” Rick said. “This is something that you can get through together and you will find a child who has been reborn and achieving the fullest expression of who they want to be and who they’re meant to be.”

The Colbys said trans youth, their parents, and their doctors should be making medical and mental health decisions with no interference from the government.

Republican lawmakers said they are protecting trans youth from irreversible decisions they might regret.

Watch more of this story this Sunday on The Spectrum at 10 a.m. only on NBC4.