2022 State Legislative Sessions: An Overview on Protecting Minors from Gender Transition
Our culture’s embrace of the postmodern conception of sexual subjectivity now impacts even children. An increasing number of minors are being encouraged to question their sexuality and are being told the lie that they may have been “born in the wrong body.” To “fix” this problem, activist doctors offer experimental physiological interventions: drugs that block natural puberty, unnaturally high doses of wrong-sex hormones, and increasingly, “gender transition” surgeries. Each of these interventions carries the risk of significant side effects, up to and including permanent sterility, and there is no evidence that they accomplish their intended purpose of resolving the patient’s gender dysphoria and improving mental health.
Despite these facts, more minors are undergoing these procedures than ever before. The number of gender transition clinics in the United States has increased from two in 2007 to hundreds today. In her book Irreversible Damage, Abigail Shrier reports that most Western countries have seen a 1,000-5,000 percent increase in teenage females (who used to form a minority of those experiencing gender dysphoria) now seeking treatment from gender clinics and psychologists. A 2019 study found that one gender clinic in Northern California saw a 504 percent increase in the number of minors being referred to the clinic from 2015 to 2018. These statistics illustrate the increasing focus on medicalization, rather than psychotherapy, for minors experiencing distress concerning their sex. They suggest that social factors, rather than medical factors, may be at play.
Thankfully, state legislators across the country have introduced legislation to stop the mutilation and sterilization of minors who have not yet reached an age at which informed consent is possible. This issue has proliferated across the states in the past four years. Since 2018, 28 states have introduced legislation to protect minors from these experimental interventions. Nineteen states (including carryover) considered versions of this legislation this year alone. The strongest bills include all of the following provisions:
- Prohibit medical professionals from performing gender transition surgeries on minors or administering puberty-blocking drugs or cross-sex hormones to minors.
- Provide a professional penalty for noncompliance (unprofessional conduct).
- Provide strong definitions for “gender” and “sex” that do not reinforce gender ideology or the notion that sex is fluid and can be “reassigned.”
- Provide legislative findings detailing the lack of medical and scientific evidence for gender transition.
- Prohibit medical insurance from covering such treatments for minors.
- Provide for the proper treatment of any minor diagnosed with a physiological intersex disorder in order to make their body align with their biological sex.
- Create a cause of action for individuals harmed by violations of the act.
The Save Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act is a model bill that includes all the above provisions, making it the gold standard of protection for minors. (Click here to read FRC’s state policy brief for the SAFE Act.)
Three bills in this category have been enacted so far:
- Arkansas H.B. 1570, the Save Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act, was the first of its kind to be enacted, and was largely based on FRC’s model legislation.
- Alabama S.B. 184, the Alabama Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act, established comprehensive protections for minors in Alabama (although it lacks the prohibition on insurance coverage for these procedures for minors). Additionally, it contains provisions to prohibit school faculty from withholding information to parents related to their child’s perceived gender identity.
- Arizona S.B. 1138 only passed after it was amended to remove all enforcement mechanisms and apply only to gender transition surgery. By failing to protect minors from the damaging effects of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones (which are typically prescribed before surgery), the final version of this bill was much weaker than at introduction.
Tennessee S.B. 126 only applies to hormone therapy, lacks definitions and enforcement mechanisms, and only applies to prepubescent minors. This narrow application renders the law largely ineffectual since prepubescent minors are currently not generally given wrong-sex hormones, only puberty blockers.
The strongest versions of this legislation considered this year have been proposed in Arizona (H.B. 2608), Louisiana (H.B. 570), Mississippi (S.B. 2728), Missouri (H.B. 2649), Ohio (H.B. 454), and Oklahoma (H.B. 3240). Each includes all of the above provisions, although Oklahoma’s bill does not include legislative findings. Additionally, the Missouri bill prohibits public funding to organizations that provide transition procedures to minors, and Ohio’s bill includes parental rights provisions similar to those in Alabama’s enacted law.
This momentum must continue. All Americans should be able to agree that minors must not be subjected to experimental, likely sterilizing procedures with no physical or proven psychological benefits before they reach the age of consent. Thankfully, bills to protect minors from gender transition procedures are off to a running start across the nation and making significant headway. More states need to enact strong legislation to protect children from the known and unknown harms of gender transition