Metro Weekly

Lawmakers Send Anti-Transgender Bills To Arizona Governor To Sign Into Law

One measure bars transgender youth from obtaining gender-affirming surgery, and the other bars trans females from participating in women's sports.

Arizona State Capitol – Photo: Visitor7, via Wikimedia.

Arizona House lawmakers approved two bills restricting transgender rights, sending them to the desk of Gov. Doug Ducey for his signature into law.

The first measure, a bill to restrict minors from accessing certain types of gender-affirming health care, is narrower than similar bills proposed in other states, in that it only bans transgender youth from undergoing surgical interventions, rather than broader bans that also prohibit youth from accessing hormone therapy or puberty blockers. 

The bill explicitly bans surgeries for minors if those surgeries are performed to assist in a gender transition, such as face-sculpting procedures, mastectomies, breast enhancements, or genital surgeries, also referred to as “bottom surgeries.”

Supporters of the bill have compared gender confirmation surgery to “genital mutilation,” noting that surgical interventions are irreversible. But opponents of the bill say it creates a double standard for transgender children compared to other children, reports the Arizona Mirror

For example, Rep. Kelli Butler (D-Phoenix) argued that surgical interventions for transgender individuals are only performed after years of counseling and consultation with medical professionals. And although surgical interventions are rarely performed on minors, in the rare cases where they are performed, they are only done with the consent of the patient and parental permission. By comparison, elective cosmetic surgeries, for non-transgender minors, may require parental permission, but do not require minors to undergo counseling in advance of the procedures, which are equally as irreversible.

“Right now a 17-year-old can go get breast implants if they want to. There’s no counseling required to do that,” noted Butler. “The parent gets to have the freedom to work with their child to decide if that’s the right choice. But this bill is removing parents’ freedom to help their child make that decision if it’s related to gender assignment. This, to me, seems like a really ridiculous double standard.”

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Warren Petersen (R-Gilbert), argued that the measure is in line with current health guidelines, closely following the standards of care outlined by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health. But some critics have argued those standards are outdated, as they are over a decade old. A new guide is expected to be published this year, and the age recommendation for gender-affirming surgeries is expected to be lowered from 18 to 15, according to Rep. Melody Hernandez (D-Tempe), who noted that the decision to pursue surgery isn’t made on a whim, and that most children who suffer from gender dysphoria can identify their own gender by three years old,  according to the Mayo Clinic.

“This is an intimate part of who they are. This is something that should be respected, and we should absolutely not be allowing government overreach into what should be [a] private medical decision,” she said.

House lawmakers also approved a measure barring transgender females from participating in female-designated sports — a measure that received unanimous approval from Republicans in the chamber.

“In my opinion, it’s unfair to allow biological males to compete in biological girl sports,” argued Rep. Shawnna Bolick (R-Phoenix). “The advantages bestowed by biological male puberty are so big that no amount of training or talent can enable biological female athletes to overcome them.”

House Speaker Rusty Bowers (R-Mesa) agreed, saying that the legislature could enact other non-competitive opportunities for people, including transgender youth, to participate in athletics, but because winning is the goal of most sports teams, it is unfair to allow trans athletes to compete against cisgender females due to the biological advantage they enjoy.

According to testimony from Dr. Kristina Wilson, a pediatric sports medicine physician and the chairperson for the Arizona Interscholastic Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, which governs high school athletics in Arizona, only 16 transgender athletes have requested and been approved to join sports teams aligning with their gender identity. Citing those numbers, she suggested that the proposed measure is unnecessary, as there is little evidence that trans youth are dominating sports to the detriment of non-trans children.

The Human Rights Campaign and the American Civil Liberties Union called out legislators for approving the bills, urging Ducey to veto the measures, just as his fellow Republicans, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb and Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, did when faced with similar bills to restrict transgender participation in sports.

“Transgender kids do not deserve to be the targets of dehumanizing attacks that invalidate their identity,” HRC Arizona State Director Bridget Sharpe said in a statement. “For transgender young folks for whom this care this medically necessary, this bill could have serious, life-threatening consequences.

“And like all children, transgender youth deserve to participate in school athletic programs as their true selves, not forced to be isolated and dismissed by their schools,” Sharpe added. “Transgender kids are just kids, and they deserve to play.Arizonans deserve better than legislators who are seeking to bully transgender youth with politically motivated bills for the sake of discrimination itself. Caught in the crosshairs of anti-LGBTQ+ elected officials’ divisive political strategy are vulnerable kids who are simply trying to navigate their adolescence.”

“Arizona has unfortunately joined the long list of states that have made bullying and discriminating against trans students a priority this legislative session,” Darrell Hill, policy director for the ACLU of Arizona, added. “These unabated attacks on trans kids attempt to solve problems that do not exist and singles out people for simply being transgender. Gov. Ducey should follow in the footsteps of the Republican governors in Utah and Indiana and veto legislation that harms the health and well-being of transgender youth.”

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