COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – As one Ohio House committee heard dozens of opponents speak against a bill to ban transgender athletes from all levels of female sports, another committee heard from supporters of a second bill targeting transgender youth: A bill to ban gender-affirming care for minors entirely.
Its sponsor, Rep. Gary Click (R-Vickery), told the House Public Health Policy committee last week that children will still be able to see mental health professionals for “gender-related conditions” with parental consent. But medical professionals would be disallowed from prescribing hormones and puberty blockers, performing any type of gender-affirming surgery on patients under 18 or aiding and abetting in a child’s efforts to get such care.
Click did not testify Wednesday and instead perched in the front row of the audience. However, at the bill’s first hearing, he said House Bill 68, named the “Saving Adolescents from Experimentation Act,” forwards his vision of giving a “chance for children to grow up.” Several proponents of the bill, including parents of trans children, a pharmacist, and out-of-state activists, repeated many of Click’s refrains about what they called the “social contagion” of gender-affirming care.
Under the bill, co-sponsored by more than three dozen Republican representatives, mental health professionals would be allowed to diagnose and treat gender-related conditions – namely, gender dysphoria – in minors only after they’ve received parental consent and have screened the patient for a slew of mental health and developmental conditions, including autism, ADHD, depression and anxiety. Providers would also have to note whether the child has experienced any type of abuse or “other traumas.”
In addition to pre-treatment restrictions, mental health providers would also be required to report certain data annually to the state department of health, including:
- The number of minors they diagnosed or treated for a gender-related condition
- The biological sex of minors diagnosed or treated for a gender-related condition
- The age at which minors were diagnosed or began treatment of a gender-related condition
- The number of minors with aforementioned comorbidities or who were abused
The health department will submit a report to the Ohio General Assembly detailing statewide data on minors seeking mental health care for a gender-related condition each year.
Click has repeatedly asserted his belief that “gender is the same as sex” and that many forms of gender-affirming care – which he calls “gender conversion” – are experimental, dangerous and irreversible. In 44 pages of written testimony, he claims that trans adults who transitioned as children “do not exist” and that up to 95% of children who question their gender identity will ultimately identify with the gender assigned to them at birth.
A meta-analysis of 27 studies, pooling nearly 8,000 transgender patients who underwent gender-affirming surgery, found that the rate of regret is about 1%.
Many of the bill’s supporters shared anecdotes of children declaring their trans identity and parents feeling pressured to affirm them through medical interventions. Several prominent activists who have detransitioned – or whose identities realigned with the gender assigned to them at birth – spoke of being rushed into taking cross-sex hormones and undergoing gender-affirming surgery. Prisha Mosley, who has testified in Kansas, South Carolina and Texas against gender-affirming care, started taking testosterone at 17, two years after first beginning to identify as trans, and said “even social transition is dangerous.”
Rep. Adam Bird (R-New Richmond), asked whether Mosley thought the term “gender-affirming care” reflected her experience.
“I think it’s gender-denying harm,” Mosley said. “You are denying your birth gender and taking experimental, sterilizing medicine, and becoming a permanently medicalized patient for life.”
Kelly Wagner, who testified that she questioned her gender when she was younger but ultimately identified with her biological sex, asked why medical professionals were “mutilating, castrating, sterilizing, and medicalizing so many children for life, when a large majority will grow out of their temporary distress?”
There is no data on the number of trans children who undergo gender-affirming surgery in Ohio, but hospital and clinic policies expressly discourage performing such surgeries on minors.
When testifying against a version of the bill in the last General Assembly, Nick Lashutka, president of the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association, said that no Ohio children’s hospital performs gender-affirming surgeries on patients under 18. As far as non-surgical care, Lashutka’s written testimony asserted that 7% of Ohio’s minor patients with gender dysphoria have been prescribed puberty blockers, and the average age of patients starting hormone treatment is 16 to 17. Any medical treatment requires parental consent.
None of the parents who spoke testified that their children were given hormones or prior to turning 18 or without parental consent.
The American Academy of Pediatrics supports the use of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones in trans adolescents and social and legal gender affirmation at all ages. The academy “typically” recommends gender-affirming surgeries in adulthood, but notes that surgery may be deemed appropriate for adolescents on a case-by-case basis after consultation with the teenager, their family and “along with input from medical, mental health, and surgical providers.”
Dozens of medical organizations, including the American Psychiatric Association, American Medical Association, World Professional Association for Transgender Health, the Endocrine Society, and the World Health Association, have publicly stated their support of gender-affirming care for trans youth.
Many of the bill’s proponents, including parents and people who have detransitioned, pointed to mental health conditions as a main reason to stop providing gender-affirming care to trans children. Parents discussed the mental health diagnoses their children had or they suspected they had, including ADHD, eating disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Jane Williams, whose child came out as trans in high school, detailed her child’s health history, which included suicidal ideation and hospitalizations. Williams said after her child began identifying as a boy, medical professionals focused on treating his gender dysphoria through affirming care instead of “resolving” the mental health diagnoses.
Per Williams’ testimony, her adult son continues to identify as trans, has taken testosterone for three years, and has a double mastectomy scheduled. She acknowledged that her son didn’t know she was testifying for the bill.
Rep. Beth Liston (D-Dublin) asked Williams whether she believed her child was truly trans.
“We believe our [child] is a girl,” Williams said, consistently using female pronouns to describe him. “We believe [his] mental health issues have never been addressed.”