Before a time of impassioned citizen testimony, the committee heard from the father of a purportedly transgender child named James Younger as well as a psychologist and an Austin-based researcher.
Jeff Younger, whose son James became the center of a politicized custody battle after his mother alleged that he identified as a girl named Luna, testified that the current legal environment in Texas enables easy gender transitions for children.
“Without my consent, my ex-wife just transitioned my son to a girl… It’s very easy under these current protocols for children to fall into this,” Jeff said.
“The reason you’re not seeing more parents here… is the family court actually put me under a gag order.”
North Texas neuropsychologist, former Texas Psychological Association (TPA) President, and American Psychological Association Fellow Clifford Alan Hopewell spoke against gender affirmation treatment while testifying on the bill.
“If an individual is depressed, I don’t affirm their depression… If they’re schizophrenic, I don’t affirm their schizophrenia,” Hopewell said.
“The fact is that many therapists are doing this… Surgery does not cure their unhappiness.”
Notably, neither Senate Bill (SB) 1646 by Sen. Charles Perry (R-Lubbock) nor SB 1311 by Sen. Bob Hall (R-Friendswood) would ban verbal gender affirmation counseling. Only procedures that alter the child’s body would be illegal.
SB 1646 would expand the definition of child abuse in the law to include the performance of surgeries or the administration of puberty-blocking drugs to children for the purpose of gender reassignment. Originally, it amended the state penal code to punish these procedures as state jail felonies, but Perry offered a new version of the bill that would instead “let Child Protective Services handle” such cases instead of charging the parents.
SB 1311 would likewise ban gender reassignment drugs and surgeries for children but would revoke the licenses of doctors who carry out these procedures instead of targeting the parents.
“I will point out that an exception is made in this bill for treating children with medically verifiable intersex disorders,” Hall said, noting a provision that appears in both bills.
“Bottom line, there is a natural cure for real and perceived gender dysphoria. It is called puberty.”
Kevin Stuart, a social science researcher and executive director at the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture, claimed the data does not support gender affirmation for supposedly transgender children and pointed to the profits of gender-changing treatment.
“Multiple studies have shown that over the long run, those who transition of increased rates of suicide, not decreased,” Stuart said.
“Puberty blockers cost $20,000 a year per patient… Given other estimates from the census, the total size of the industry could be well over $13 billion. So there’s a lot of money at stake here.”
Stuart also claimed that when a child’s puberty is allowed to proceed unchanged, “dysphoria desists for 84 percent of patients.”
A number of medical professionals came to speak against the proposals. Andrew Reichert, a Port Aransas psychologist, opposed the bans on the grounds that they could disrupt the privacy between doctor and patient.
“My opposition is primarily because I feel this bill intrudes on decisions that should be better left to patients, parents, and their physicians,” he said.
Representatives of several medical associations came to oppose the bills — including the TPA, whose past president, Hopewell, spoke favorably on the bills at the beginning of the hearing. Current TPA President Megan Mooney claimed that “SB 1646 has the potential to be a source of trauma for young people,” and another Austin pediatrician said that “organized medicine stands united to strongly oppose SB 1646 and SB 1311.”
Remington Johnson, a male-to-female transgender Presbyterian pastor, quoted from the Bible during testimony.
“‘Woe to you, you vipers.’ Your words betray you. You say you love us, but you speak with such dehumanizing language,” Johnson said to the committee members.
Countering the Youngers, a parent-child duo testified against the bills and called gender reassignment surgeries necessary.
“The kids and the professionals should decide what treatment is important,” said Neal Giles, father of a daughter named Indigo who received surgery as a teen.
“The medical help Indigo received turned it all around. Indigo thrived as their authentic self, excelling both in school and in life.”
Along with hearing testimony, members of the committee discussed how to distinguish the two similar bills and whether passing both could result in a conflict in the law.
“If both bills are passed, is there anything that would be mutually exclusive?” Sen. Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury) asked.
“I don’t think it would be conflicting. It may be duplicative,” Perry answered.
“From my viewpoint, looking at both of them, it’s kind of like belts and suspenders,” Hall quipped, saying that each bill targets one of the “two major players: parents and medical centers.”
The two bills are awaiting a vote in committee before they can be considered by the full Senate and sent to the Texas House.
They aren’t the only two child gender reassignment bans traveling through the Texas legislature.
Inspired by James Younger, state Rep. Steve Toth (R-Spring) partnered with Hall on his bill but also introduced his own ban in the state House which would count gender reassignment surgeries or drugs for kids as child abuse. One difference between Toth’s bill and Perry’s is that Perry defines “intersex child” as a child of ambiguous sex organs under 15 years old, while Toth uses the regular age limit of 18 in the Texas Family Code.
State Rep. Matt Krause’s (R-Fort Worth) House Bill (HB) 1399, a similar ban, would include the sex-change procedures in the list of prohibited practices for doctors that are punishable by the Texas Medical Board.
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