Crowd rallies for transgender health care rights for youth at Utah Capitol

Lawmakers on a Utah House committee soundly rejected a bill that would have punished doctors for giving gender-affirming health care to minors, then moments later approved legislation that included similar restrictions on transgender health care. Less Than Punishment – During a long committee meeting on the party line Tuesday.

Members of the House Health and Human Services Committee voted to advance Sen. Mike Kennedy, R-Alpine’s, bill, Senate Bill 16, which has undergone several changes since its introduction.

In its current version, it intends to bar doctors’ ability to prescribe hormone therapy to minors and would prohibit transgender-related body-change surgery on minors. It would also call on the Department of Health and Human Services to “conduct a systematic review of the medical evidence” surrounding hormone treatment for transgender youth.

Kennedy’s bill, which was approved by the Senate last week, will move on to the House of Representatives for consideration.

The committee bill, introduced by Rep. Rex Shipp, R-Cedar City, would impose an outright ban on any gender-affirming health care for minors and make such services punishable by fines or subject to disciplinary action. State.

In addition to Democrats opposing Shipp’s House Bill 132, Republican Representative Ray Ward of Bountiful; Anthony Loubet of Cairns; Steve Eliason of Sandy; Marsha Judkins of Provo; Stewart Barlow of Fruit Heights; And Sandy’s Robert Spendlove voted against it.

Ward, who is a family practice physician, opposed Shipp’s bill, saying she preferred an alternative that included a way for the state to collect more information about the effects of hormone treatment on transgender youth, and He was concerned that the bill would open the state up to lawsuits.

“I don’t think it’s a closed issue,” Ward said.

Echoing Ward’s concerns, Lobbett told the committee, “If you have someone who is transgender and you close this window, you haven’t left anything else open. There’s no way, no There is no hope, there is no way forward for this bill.”

“I think we need to do something that’s a little more forward-thinking,” Lobate said.

Among those supporting the bill was Rep. Quinn Cotter, R-West Valley City. He told the committee that he had brought a Bible with him to the Capitol on Tuesday, and said before reading from Genesis, “There are absolute moral truths, and male and female is something that comes from our Creator.”

Several in the audience made a thumbs-up gesture during Cotter’s remarks.

In a text after the vote, Shipp said he was not sure whether he would run a similar bill again in the future, but he is “concerned about children who will be irreversibly damaged and will ultimately regret it.” “

During his presentation, Shipp called the same expert witness that Kennedy had featured at an earlier Senate committee hearing of his bill – Chloe Cole, a California teenager who transitioned from female to male, then later transitioned back. Happened.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) People gather at a rally in support of transgender youth at the Capitol Building on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023 in Salt Lake City.

He also included Erin Brewer’s testimony from Logan. Brewer, who is a co-founder of Advocates Protecting Children and has a blog critical of the transgender rights movement, told the committee that she is “a former transgender child” who “realized that” after being sexually assaulted. My transgender identity was a coping mechanism”.

“In the long term,[hormone therapy]may have reinforced the misconception that led to my gender dysphoria in the first place – that being a girl was too dangerous,” Brewer said. “If I had transitioned medically, I would not have gotten the help I needed to work through my fear, my self-loathing, and my shame.”

Dozens of people stood up to speak against both bills — most of whom came to the meeting to oppose the measures.

Among them was Bree Martin, editor of the student newspaper at West High School, and a transgender woman. She said the gender-affirming care she received was “nothing short of life-saving.”

“My family and I were spared the difficult and laborious task of adult transition. I want to make clear that regardless of opposition, transition was my only option,” Martin told the committee.

“I deserve a body to be proud of,” she said, concluding her remarks and drawing applause from the crowd.

Martin also spoke at a rally on the steps of the Capitol earlier in the day, where attendees were carrying signs saying “the future is not binary” and “trans kids matter” – along with waving pink, white and baby blue flags. were. in the cool air. Around 200 people came in support of transgender youth.

Sage Paulson, one of the transgender youths who spoke at the rally, said, “I walked up to the Capitol today and I, as a trans person, was very intimidated to see what the vote would be like here.” “I started crying. I am very happy to see everyone here today.”

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) People gather at a rally in support of transgender youth at the Capitol Building on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023 in Salt Lake City.

The rally, organized by the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah and the LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Utah, was held in the wake of a series of bills — including Shipp and Kennedy — being considered by the Utah Legislature that would affect trans youth and their access. Will do For gender-affirming health care.

Sue Robbins from Equality Utah helped hand out crocheted heart pins in the colors of the transgender flag and urged people to wear them at committee hearings.

Because the rally was held during school days, many parents of transgender children came out to support their children. One mother — who identified herself by her maiden name, Laurel, to protect her child’s privacy — told The Salt Lake Tribune that “today is a day we’re fighting for our child’s life and it really is. That is. We don’t want them to feel that they are less or other in any way.

Laurel said that her child has been on hormone therapy for a year. Hormone blockers, she said, give children and their families the gift of time to understand themselves. “As parents, we’re afraid, because if your child isn’t accepted in the world, if they don’t feel like they have a place in the world, how are they going to live their life?” he said.

Another mother of a transgender child, who identified herself as Tanya, is a friend of Laurel’s – and the two families serve as a support system for each other. If transgender health care were completely closed in Utah, she said, her family would most likely leave Utah. Her family loves Utah, she said, but she wants their children to have a right to exist.

“The fact is that a child who is forced to live in a body that doesn’t conform to the way they see themselves is more likely to hurt themselves,” Tanya said, “and we want to protect our families.” Don’t want this for.

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