A Utah House committee unanimously approved a bill to study the effects of hormone therapy and other medical treatments prescribed for a gender transition on transgender minors.
The measure, sponsored by Rep. Brad Daw (R-Orem), instructs the Utah Department of Health to hire three experts in medicine or pharmacology to conduct a review of existing research on the diagnosis and treatment of youth suffering from gender dysphoria.
Daw had originally considered introducing a bill to ban hormone therapy and gender confirmation surgery for anyone under the age of 18 — similar to measures introduced in several other state legislatures this year.
But he decided instead to introduce a bill looking at the science behind gender-affirming care before moving forward with a ban on such treatments.
“After talking with a number of people and raising concerns, it appeared to me that we just don’t know [about the effects of hormone therapy],” Daw told the Utah Valley-based Daily Herald. “There’s a lot of information we don’t have. And so before we rush in and ban something completely, and maybe disrupt minors who are going through the treatment, which probably would be very problematic, let’s gather information.”
Daw said he had “grave concerns” about hormones lie Lupron, which he says can potentially cause sterility and blindness. He previously stated that youth should not be allowed to make potentially life-altering decisions that they may regret later in life.
Various opponents and supporters of the bill testified at the hearing, with conservatives — including the conservative advocacy group Eagle Forum of Utah — supporting the bill, while transgender advocates were more skeptical of its intentions.
Utah resident Erin Brewer, who identifies as a “former trans kid,” spoke in favor of the bill, saying she was diagnosed with gender dysphoria after being sexually assaulted as a child, while her brother was spared any abuse.
She said a psychologist helped her understand that she was using her gender identity to cope with the trauma stemming from the assault.
“In my child’s mind, I thought that being a boy would prevent me from ever being hurt that way again,” Brewer said. “If I had been medically transitioned, I never would have understood that the hatred that I had for my female body was the result of being violently violated. I never would have realized that my transgender identity was in fact a coping mechanism.”
But Hayley McLoughlin, the parent of a 16-year-old transgender boy, credited puberty blockers with saving her son’s life, saying it allowed her son to talk to a therapist and deal with his feelings of gender dysphoria so that he could decide whether he wanted to transition.
Candice Metzler, the director of Transgender Education Advocates of Utah, criticized the bill as being a political statement, rather than a measure that genuinely intends to help transgender or questioning youth.
She has previously noted that there is an abundance of medical information, all readily accessible, that lawmakers could avail themselves of if they were serious about investigating the medications used to transition.
She added that, if lawmakers really want to assist transgender or gender-nonconforming children, they could fund anti-bullying initiatives or pass legislation to make schools more inclusive.
“I’m not necessarily for or against [the bill], but I’m for putting resources towards things that are going to actually help this population instead of politicizing it,” she said.
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