This story originally appeared in Truthout on Jan. 5, 2023. It is shared here with permission.
A Republican lawmaker in the state of Oklahoma has proposed legislation to ban medical workers from providing gender-affirming care to children and young adults — a move that many experts say will endanger transgender and nonbinary people in the state.
Proposals to bar physicians or other medical workers from providing gender affirming care to trans or nonbinary youth have become commonplace in Republican-run legislatures across the country, but Senate Bill 129, introduced by Oklahoma Sen. David Bullard (R), is unique in that it would create restrictions for young adults as well as children.
“A physician or other healthcare professional shall not provide gender transition procedures to any individual under twenty-six (26) years of age,” his bill reads.
The bill would also forbid medical personnel from making referrals for patients seeking such care. Those in violation of the bill would be charged with a felony crime, the text of the legislation says.
The language of the bill is broad, and defines “gender transition procedures” as including surgeries and medication like puberty-blocking medication or hormones. The bill also forbids “other mechanisms to promote the development of feminizing or masculinizing features.”
Journalist Erin Reed, who reports on trans and queer topics, suggested that the bill’s language could also force young adults already in the midst of gender-affirming care treatments to medically detransition against their will.
If Bullard’s bill successfully becomes law, it “would medically detransition a huge portion of Oklahoma’s transgender population,” Reed wrote in a Substack post. The bill isn’t aimed at protecting people, but at erasing trans and nonbinary people, she added.
“Slowly, states are moving towards an outright ban on being transgender — it is for these reasons that people have begun calling the attacks on gender-affirming care an attempt at genocide,” Reed said.
Robin Witt, vice president of the Florida LGBTQ+ Democratic Caucus, warned that the legislation could be copied in her home state and elsewhere. “Like we’ve said a million times over, this was never about protecting kids. It’s about erasing trans people from existence,” she tweeted on Thursday.
Oklahoma is fast becoming — if it’s not already — the most restrictive state against trans and nonbinary people in the U.S.
In May, Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) signed a bill into law that requires schools to force students to use restrooms that correspond to the gender that was assigned on their birth certificates. He also signed a bill into law in October that forbids a publicly funded hospital in the state from providing gender affirming care to trans youth. That same month, Stitt encouraged Republicans in the Oklahoma legislature to continue sponsoring bills through 2023 that target transgender people.
Medical experts largely agree that anti-trans bills are harmful and could result in fatal outcomes.
“To me, these bills are intended to insinuate that the care I provide to trans youth is harmful and abusive, and they interfere with the doctor-patient relationship,” Pennsylvania pediatrician and University of Pennsylvania professor Nadia Dowshen said in an op-ed for The Hill in February 2020. “Let’s be clear; I provide lifesaving treatment that improves health, life, and well-being.”
Jack Turban, a physician in child and adolescent psychiatry at the Massachusetts General Hospital, noted in a New York Times op-ed that same year that such laws increase the likelihood of depression and death for young trans people.
“State legislators need to educate themselves about these young people and their medical care before introducing legislation that will hurt them,” Turban wrote.
Lawyer and trans activist Chase Strangio shared his personal story about receiving gender-affirming care more than a decade ago in a Truthout op-ed published in December 2021.
“Waking up from top surgery and experiencing my body differently was one of the most memorable and joyful moments of my life,” Strangio said. “From there other moments followed: wearing a T-shirt without a binder for the first time, going to the beach, looking in the mirror.”
“When you spend your life hiding from yourself, experiencing embodiment is nourishing, exhilarating,” he went on, describing the feeling of embodiment as “survival.”
“Gender-affirming health care saved my life, and I will never stop fighting back against those who are seeking to take it away from our community,” he concluded.