88th LegislatureIssuesState HouseStatewide NewsProtests, Prayer Vigils Occupy Texas Capitol over Hearing on Ending Child Gender Modification

A committee over a bill to ban child gender modification had over 3,000 people sign up to give testimony and had protests that gained national attention.
March 30, 2023
A ban on child gender modification bill that spurred national attention had its opportunity to hear public testimony, bringing out its share of supporters, opponents, clip-worthy moments, and activist demonstrations.

Before the testimony began, at the inverted rotunda in the Texas Capitol, hundreds of pro-gender modification activists protested and advocated their cause.

Included at the protest was Jonathan Van Ness, a television host and gay rights activist, who advocated for “protecting kids” from the “so many who wish to harm us.” The pre-committee protest also hosted an ”indigenous” group performing a traditional dance and a “prayer vigil” with pro-transgender religious groups.

Rep. Tom Oliverson (R-Cypress) introduced House Bill (HB) 1686 in an effort to end the use of gender modification treatments on children. During the introduction of the bill during the committee hearing, Oliverson made the point that this bill is not aimed at banning psychiatrists or therapists from conducting counseling with patients.

Additionally, the bill would allow the Texas Medical Board to revoke the license of a physician who provides gender modification treatments to minors.

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A variety of different terms and phrases were used to express the experience of children who are potentially encountering the proposition to use gender modification treatments.

“Gender dysphoria” is one term, defined by the American Psychiatric Association as “psychological distress that results from an incongruence between one’s sex assigned at birth and one’s gender identity.” It also defines “gender identity” as “a person’s basic internal sense of being a man, woman, and/or another gender (e.g., gender queer, gender fluid).”

The term “transgender,” according to the American Psychological Association, is “an umbrella term for persons whose gender identity, gender expression or behavior does not conform to that typically associated with the sex to which they were assigned at birth.”

The Association of American Medical Colleges defines that “gender-affirming care” is “hormone-related treatments that delay puberty or promote development of masculine or feminine sex characteristics” and states that such “interventions help transgender people align various aspects of their lives — emotional, interpersonal, and biological — with their gender identity.”

The public testimony brought a variety of different viewpoints and viral moments.

First to give testimony was Quentin Van Meter, a member of the American College of Pediatricians. During his testimony he advocated in support of the bill, citing examples of the failure of “gender medicine” in the research of John Money and the shutdown of the Tavistock clinic.

John Money is a figure often brought up by both supporters and opponents of gender modification treatments. He was an early sexologist and psychologist who initially garnered attention in the field of sexuality and gender for being the first person to use the word “gender” as opposed to “sex” when referring to the distinction between biological and behavioral differences between males and females.

Money founded the world’s first “gender-identity” clinic at John Hopkins University in 1966. His views on sexuality and gender led him in 1965 to begin a “gender-role” experiment on a pair of twin boys where one boy had normal male genitalia and the other, David Reimer, suffered genital injuries due to a botched circumcision.

To test his gender hypothesis, Money convinced Reimer’s parents to decide to involve David and his brother in a psychological experiment requiring David to undergo faux-sexual activities with his brother, chemical castration, and female genital reconstruction. David eventually returned to living as a man; both he and his brother committed suicide in the early 2000s.

The Tavistock clinic in London and its Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) was shut down in 2022 after an independent review determined the clinic was not a “safe or viable long-term option.” The review, conducted by British medical consultant Dr. Hilary Cass, was highly critical of the clinic’s operations and assessments, citing “a lack of open discussion” on what was producing “gender incongruence” in children.

The review was initially commissioned by the United Kingdom’s National Health Service in response to a variety of issues, which included a “significant and sharp rise in referrals.” In 2009, there were approximately 50 referrals. That number spiked to 2,500 in 2020, with 4,600 children on the waiting list with a waiting time of over two years.

Cass highlighted that the referrals changed from being predominantly males to being predominantly females in addition to the fact that approximately one third of the referred children had Autism Spectrum Disorder or another “neurodiversity” issue. The review also cited a lack of clarity on the effectiveness of puberty-blocking drugs to “pause” puberty and their “intended outcomes.” Cass also noted that brain development could be “temporarily or permanently disrupted by puberty-blockers.”

With the report citing “major gaps in the research base underpinning the clinical management of children and young people with gender incongruence and gender dysphoria, including the appropriate approaches to assessment and treatment,” the decision was made to close the clinic.

The second witness giving testimony produced the most online-viral moment of the hearing.

Jessica Zwiener, an endocrinologist whose clinic offers hormone treatments for gender modification, spoke in opposition to the bill and engaged in a back-and-forth with Rep. Tony Tinderholt (R-Arlington) during the questioning period.

The verbal sparring initially began with Tinderholt asking Zwiener to define a “woman,” with Zwiener responding, “It sounds like an easy question, but it’s a complicated question.”

Tinderholt then asked Zwiener if a man could have a baby, to which Zwiener replied, “There are plenty of trangender men out there … a transgender man who feels like a man in his brain, who has taken testosterone, who looks like a man externally, who occupies a man role in society, who is treated as a man, whose driver’s license says that he is male, these people sometimes have babies.”

After the back-and-forth, Tinderholt concluded, “I respect the fact that you came here today. We fundamentally disagree.”

The now-familiar usage of the words male and female as “social constructs” traces back to feminist and gender theorist Judith Butler’s 1988 essay “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution,” which described gender as “performative” and “an identity tenuously constituted … through a stylized repetition of acts.”

The term “transexual” was first publicized by endocrinologist Harry Benjamin in his 1966 book ”The Transsexual Phenomenon,” where he presented a patient of his who had undergone “sex reassignment surgery.” Benjamin is commonly known in gender theory as ”the founding father of contemporary western transsexualism,” and his work examines “the interrelations between science, politics, and clinical intervention, with particular reference to issues concerning transsexuality and the ‘problem’ of heteronormativity.”

The use of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones by doctors like Zwiener is often touted as being reversible or even “life-saving” for supposedly transgender children.

Studies have found that hormone treatments on children with gender dysphoria either did not report “statistically significant reductions,” are not scientifically rigorous in their design and “lack reasonable controls,” or “the studies themselves are not reliable, the results could be due to confounding, bias, or chance.” Evidence reviews of hormone treatments on children report findings that offer “limited evidence for the effectiveness and safety of gender-affirming hormones.”

Treatment can cause patients to “end with a decreased bone density” and brain development impairment. Suppressing puberty can permanently affect fertility and hormone treatments on female children have an impact visually, without surgery, on the composition and appearance of their genitalia due to the high testosterone treatments. Studies repeatedly suggest that there are either unknown outcomes or negative outcomes on children when being treated with cross-sex hormones and puberty blockers.

Dr. Megan Mooney, who testified on behalf of the Texas Psychological Association, was opposed to the bill on the grounds that her work administering gender modification care is “supported by a large number of research studies.” She went on to explain her reasons for opposition, stating that her experience with treating children and going over the scientific literature led her to understand that “trauma doesn’t cause kids to be trans, being trans causes them to be traumatized by others.”

Tinderholt engaged with Mooney during the questioning period to gain insight on how she would continue to treat children and practice psychological interventions with children with gender dysphoria. Mooney explained how she “assists in their [children’s] mental health care during their transition” and that she would still continue providing that emotional and mental assistance even if the bill passed, and recommended that parents and children go to another state to receive medical gender modification treatments if that was an option.

Tinderholt again asked if a man can have a baby, to which Mooney responded that a biological man cannot but “if you are talking about someone who identifies as a transgender man who has the biological appropriate profile of XX, uterus, eggs, that sort of thing, that person would be able to have a baby, but that’s really about gender identity as opposed to their biological sex.”

The “trauma” of children with gender dysphoria is often invoked as a driving force for child gender modification; some activists describe the choice as between a “live trans child or a dead child.”

Suicide among “trans-identified” youth is elevated compared to the general youth population. The statistic stems from information from the Tavistock clinic, which found the rate of completed trans-identified youth suicides to be 0.03 percent over a 10-year period, or is 13 per 100,000 — 5.5 percent higher than youth who do not identify at transgender.

Some activisits suggest that trans-identified youth are at an alarmingly high risk of suicide, a narrative that uses online samples, self-reporting, and LGBT activist sources. Several of these claims also don’t differentiate between suicidal thoughts and non-suicidal self-harm, and serious suicide attempts and completed suicides.

Acccording to a recent study, suicidality is only slightly higher in trans-identifying youth  when compared to other youth populations when they are referred for mental health issues. The commonality of trans-identifying youth to exhibit depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions are all known to contribute to the probability of suicide.

Almost 3,000 people signed up to testify on the bill. Rep. Stephanie Klick (R-Fort Worth) said that the public testimony portal would remain open until Friday for people to register their opinion.

The debate and testimony in committee did not end until midnight, but the pro-gender modification activists continued their protests at the Capitol, labeling it a “die-in” where they chanted “Klick lies, kids die.”

The committee did not vote on the bill, but will be able to in a future meeting.


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Cameron Abrams

Cameron Abrams is a reporter for The Texan. After graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Tabor College and a Master’s Degree from University of the Pacific, Cameron is finishing his doctoral studies where his research focuses on the postmodern philosophical influences in education. In his free time, you will find him listening to a podcast while training for an endurance running event.