Metro Weekly

Oklahoma Lawmakers Deny Funding for Transgender Youth Clinics

Bill bars taxpayer money from funding clinics that connect trans youth with puberty blockers, hormones, or surgery.

Oklahoma State Capitol – Caleb Long, via Wikimedia.

Oklahoma lawmakers have passed a bill that would force the closure of a transgender youth health care clinic at OU Children’s Hospital by denying taxpayer funds to any facility that offers gender-affirming treatments to transgender youth.

The bill, which now headed to the desk of Gov. Kevin Stitt — who is expected to sign it into law — was passed on largely party-line votes in both chambers, with Republicans decrying any clinic that links minors with treatments that precede a gender transition

Under the bill, which appropriates $108 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds to the University Hospitals Authority — including $39.4 million earmarked “to expand the capacity of behavioral health care for the children of this state” — no taxpayer funds may be spent on clinics or facilities owned by the University Hospitals Authority or University Hospitals Trust that provide “gender reassignment medical treatment” to minors, reports the Oklahoma Council on Public Affairs.

Specifically, the legislation targets “interventions to suppress the development of endogenous secondary sex characteristics,” or puberty blockers; “interventions to align the patient’s appearance or physical body with the patient’s gender identity,” or hormone therapy; and “medical therapies and medical intervention used to treat gender dysphoria,” such as surgical interventions.

The legislation was pushed by Republicans following a controversy over the University of Oklahoma Children’s Hospital’s Roy G. Biv program for transgender youth. On its website, the hospital states that the clinic will serve youth “moving toward gender affirmation” by providing them potential transition-related treatments.

State Rep. Kevin West (R-Moore), the House sponsor of Senate Bill 3, argued that the bill was needed to protect children from making life-altering decisions that cannot fully be reversed and that they often grow to regret. 

“We’ve been made aware that OU Children’s Hospital has been performing some of these procedures, and it is the feeling of a lot of Oklahomans that taxpayer dollars should not be used to fund those procedures for gender reassignment,” he said.

Moore claimed to have spoken to OU hospital officials, who told him that there had been five “top” surgeries, or mastectomies, performed on Oklahoma patients within the past year — with two parents expressing “regret” since pursuing the surgery.

Moore also claimed that, according to data from Sweden, where gender confirmation surgeries and treatments have been allowed for decades, youth who were assigned female at birth who undergo gender-affirming top surgery are “19 times more likely to commit suicide than those who do not” — which critics argue is a claim stemming from 2011 that the authors of the study to which Moore is alluding say misrepresents their findings.

Moore’s claim runs counter to the findings of a large-scale study published last year in JAMA Pediatrics that transgender people who receive gender-affirming surgery are less likely to experience psychological distress or suicidal ideation.

Additionally, Moore’s claims of widespread “regret” from people who transition run counter to a more recent study claiming that 94% of trans youth continue to identify as transgender after transitioning socially, albeit not medically.

Due to the general dearth of such studies dealing with the after-effects of transition-related treatments, as well as the nuanced findings of those few that exist, most lawmakers have simply adopted and parroted talking points fed to them by anti-LGBTQ opponents or LGBTQ advocates.

Republicans claim that allowing gender-affirming treatments on minors are a form of “child abuse” that should be discouraged, with State Sen. Shane Jett (R-Shawnee) accusing hospitals of pushing gender-affirming clinics due to a profit motive, rather than out of necessity to treat children suffering from gender dysphoria.

“It’s all about the money,” Jett said, according to the Oklahoma Council on Public Affairs. “They stood this up at Oklahoma Children’s because they got their eye off the ball — the interest of the child — and they looked for the interest of the checkbook. They are taking advantage of children and families that are in crisis and monopolizing it and creating cash opportunities for themselves.”

Democrats claimed that restricting access to such treatments tramples on parental and patient rights alike, and will ultimately increase suicidal ideation among trans youth struggling with gender dysphoria.

State Rep. Cyndi Munson (D-Oklahoma City), said the bill sends a message that “we don’t trust our parents, we don’t trust physicians, and we definitely do not trust Oklahomans to make their own personal and private health-care decisions.”

Some House Republicans opposed the bill for not going far enough and instituting a statewide ban on all gender-affirming treatments until patient reach adulthood. They claimed that the measure will not actually lead to the closure of the Roy G. Biv program at OU Children’s Hospital — which had already redirected money towards the clinic — and that practitioners will simply refer children to out-of-state doctors in places without prohibitions on transition-related health care. 

“A verbal commitment to end the Roy G. Biv program from an entity that stands to gain millions of dollars is not enough assurance to proceed,” State Rep. Wendi Stearman (R-Collinsville) said during debate on the House floor. “At the very least, we need evidence that these procedures are no longer occurring before awarding so much money.”

State Rep. Mauree Turner (D-Oklahoma City), who identifies as nonbinary, said youth should be allowed to access gender-affirming treatments, in consultation with their parents and doctors, if such procedures are deemed necessary to treat patients.

“Our youth and our adults want access to our rights, to be able to decide our own best medical practices between ourselves, our families, and our physicians,” Turner said.

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