The push to ban invasive gender treatments for minors gained momentum this week after first Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, R, and then Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, R, signed state laws banning the medical industry from providing gender-affirming drug and hormone therapies and surgeries for children and teens under the age of 18.
The Tennessee law prohibits medical providers and therapists from giving puberty blockers or cross-sex hormones to minors or performing gender transition surgeries on minors. The law requires that underage patients currently receiving gender-transitioning drug or hormone treatments must stop taking them by March 31, 2024.
The law was first proposed after Daily Wire host Matt Walsh released an exposé on the Pediatric Transgender Clinic at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, including video of doctors referring to transgender surgeries as “big moneymakers.” The new law contains a provision that allows those who received the procedures as minors to sue their medical providers, as well as to sue their parents if they signed the consent form.
Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson, R, who sponsored the bill, said,
“The weight of these decisions is too heavy for children. As a society, we understand that minors need limitations, so we place many age-restrictions on activities for children that can have lifelong consequences such as smoking, drinking alcohol, buying lottery tickets, and even getting tattoos.”
Similar laws in other states are facing lawsuits, and it is expected that Tennessee’s will also face legal challenges. In a joint statement, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), its Tennessee affiliate, and the LGBTQ civil rights organization Lambda Legal, said,
“We will not allow this dangerous law to stand. Certain politicians and Gov. Lee have made no secret of their intent to discriminate against youth who are transgender or their willful ignorance about the life-saving health care they seek to ban…We are dedicated to overturning this unconstitutional law and are confident the state will find itself completely incapable of defending it in court.”
Similarly, Mississippi’s new law prohibits anyone from prescribing or administering puberty blockers or cross-sex hormones or performing gender reassignment surgeries on those under 18. It also bans giving public funds to any entity or individual that provides gender transition procedures to children.
In addition, any medical worker who performs gender transitions on minors will have their Mississippi medical license revoked. A patient may bring a lawsuit against a doctor who violates the law for up to 30 years after the day of the action.
Reeves said before the bill signing that there is a dangerous movement growing across the county, explaining,
“It’s advancing under the guise of a false ideology and pseudo-science. It’s being pushed onto our children by radical activists, social media, and online influencers, and it’s trying to convince our children that they are in the wrong body.”
He said that there are two positions. “One tells children that they’re beautiful the way they are. That they can find happiness in their own bodies. The other tells them that they should take drugs and cut themselves up with expensive surgeries in order to find freedom from depression. I know which side I’m on. No child in Mississippi will have these drugs or surgeries pushed upon them.”
Opponents decried the bill. Mickie Stratos, president of the Spectrum Center, an organization which calls itself a resource center for the LGBT community, said, “Gov. Reeves’ decision to sign this bill is an act of violence. He and the lawmakers who pushed this bill in Mississippi are willfully ignoring the unique needs of transgender young people, interfering with their medical care and sending a stigmatizing, exclusionary message.”
Others opposing the law claim that it goes against science, which they say shows that gender transitioning stops transgender teenagers from harming themselves.
Despite the latter view, which is shared by most major medical associations, there are very few studies on the safety or efficacy of gender transitioning in minors, particularly the effect of the experimental treatments over the long term. What evidence there is shows that they can negatively affect minors’ mental and physical health, including decreases in bone density, atrophy of sexual organs, urinary problems, endocrinological problems, worsening depression and other mental health issues, and more.
The lack of studies and the observed harms the drugs can cause has led to multiple European nations limiting gender transitions for minors. In the United States, many in the medical community are not even conducting thorough reviews of a potential patient’s other mental health issues and the underlying cause of their gender distress. This has led to a growing number of detransitioners, who say that doctors did not inform them of the range of potential problems they might experience with gender treatment nor did they address their mental health issues.
In fact, the medical community is now trying to ignore or even silence detransitioners as outliers or anti-transgender. Kinnin Mackinnon, assistant professor of social work at York University, was one such skeptic, even publishing a paper saying there was “scant evidence that detransition is a negative phenomenon.”
That all changed once Mackinnon began to research detransitioners. “I can’t think of any other examples where you’re not allowed to speak about your own healthcare experiences if you didn’t have a good outcome,” said Mackinnon, who is a biological female who identifies as male. The researcher found that despite the many transgenders who experience medical issues related to gender transitions or regret, these are being intentionally ignored by medical providers and intimidated by many who are LGBT.
The lack of long-term studies, instances of harm, and the experiences and testimonies of detransitioners have helped lead to legislative action in conservative-leaning states.
Tennessee and Mississippi join Alabama, Arkansas, Utah, and South Dakota in banning gender transitioning procedures on minors. Arizona passed a ban on gender-affirming surgeries for minors in 2022. Florida has been able to stop these invasive treatments through the Board of Medicine and Board of Osteopathic Medicine, which prohibited the use of puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and surgical procedures for minors after hearing testimony from detransitioners.
Cat Cattinson first saw a gender therapist at age 17. During her very first appointment, the gender therapist affirmed her trans identity. Eleven years later, she received a prescription for testosterone from Planned Parenthood after a 30-minute phone call. Not long after, she began experiencing liver and gallbladder problems, heart palpitations, incontinence, and a permanent change to her voice.
“Almost none of this was brought up as potential side effects,” Cattinson said.
It’s a familiar experience among detransitioners: They see therapists who immediately diagnose their brand-new patients as transgender without evaluating other potential issues or health concerns and then they see doctors who prescribe hormones and other drugs without explaining the risks. Invasive, life-altering, health-risking treatment is presented as the first and only treatment option.
Even if doctors were trying to help patients understand the full range of possible short- and long-term impacts of these treatments, children cannot even begin to understand what it will mean for their lives and they cannot legally consent.
It’s time for society to end its trendy, kneejerk, ideological embrace of gender affirmation treatments for minors and for medical professionals to once again exercise sound judgment when evaluating and treating patients. Until that happens, though, our leaders have an obligation to step up and protect children from being used and abused.
Romans 13:3-4 says,
“For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.”
The purpose of government is to punish evil and protect its citizens. Stopping children from being mutilated and permanently harmed aligns with that purpose and, as such, should be at the top of every legislator’s priority list.
Ready to dive deeper into the intersection of faith and policy? Head over to our Theology of Politics series page where we’ve published several long-form pieces that will help Christians navigate where their faith should direct them on political issues.