88th LegislatureIssuesState SenateSenate Hearing on Child Gender Modification Bill Draws Detransitioners, Doctors, Activists

The first public hearing on the priority legislation to "end child gender modification" brought out a variety of voices, both in support and opposition.
March 17, 2023
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Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) introduced Senate Bill (SB) 14 as part of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s list of priority legislation to end the practice of child gender modification.

The first public hearing on Campbell’s bill was held in the Senate Committee on State Affairs on Thursday, where both supporters and opponents were able to present their testimony for why and what is causing children to partake in gender modification.

Campbell had the opportunity to give her statement on her bill before hearing testimony.

“Sometimes you need to work hard against something in order to fight for some things,” she said. “Our children need counseling and love, not blades and drugs.”

If enacted, SB 14 would prohibit medical doctors and professionals from administering puberty blocking drugs or cross-sex hormones, or performing surgeries, to children under 18 years old for the purpose of gender transitioning.

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It would also require the Texas Medical Board to revoke the medical licenses of physicians who are proven to administer gender modification interventions to children, prohibit health coverage, including Medicaid, from providing or facilitating gender modification services.

Many supporters for Campbell’s bill said there is insufficient scientific data to claim it is  “medically necessary” to prescribe gender modification treatment. Opponents of banning child gender modification also presented at the hearing, and claimed multiple times that puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones are reversible.

Dr. Jessica Zwiener, an endocrinologist, testified against the bill, stating, “I would like to continue practicing medicine.. Taking care of transgender kids has been the most fulfilling part of medicine I have ever done.”

She continued, “Watching kids go from quiet, withdrawn, not really having any plans for the future, not really liking themselves, just kind of existing until they die. Most tell me they don’t expect to live very long. They start hormones and they sort of blossom.”

The World Professional Association for Transgender Health acknowledges that there is “limited data” on the use of cross-sex hormones and that there are associations with cardiovascular and metabolic risks when using hormone therapy.

A representative for the Texas Pediatric Society, who identified himself as a primary care pediatrician, testified against the bill, stating that “a blanket ban on these medical treatments is a very blunt instrument.”

Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineloa) questioned the use of terminology like “blunt instrument,” to which the pediatrician replied, “Completely taking those options off the table and making them illegal, I feel, simply does not take into account the individual circumstances that occur with individual patients.”

Both supporters and opponents of Campbell’s bill made attempts to explain the causes of the gender confusion in children.

Dr, Megan Mooney, a psychologist representing the Texas Psychological association, testified against the bill. Campbell asked “Whenever a child who comes in and says I’m a trans kid, do you believe them?” Mooney quickly answered “Yes.”

Campbell followed up asking whether Mooney would provide a letter of recommendation for hormones based on a child stating they are “trans.” Mooney responded, “I am not a prescribing physician.” Campbell pushed the questioning further, asking if Mooney has written letters for children to recommend hormones, and Mooney did not deny that she has.

Opponents at the hearing repeatedly referred to the bill as a way to “disappear trans children.”

The number of teenagers who identify as transgender has doubled between 2017 and 2020, per the Williams Institute, a progressive LGBT policy think tank. It also reports that there are now over 300,000 children aged 13 to 17 in the U.S. who identify as transgender.

Two ideas presented by supporters at the hearing were “rapid-onset gender dysphoria” and the “gender-affirming” model of many doctors.

Rapid-onset gender dysphoria is described as an emergent phenomenon wherein young people, through social influence, poor mental health, neurodevelopmental disabilities, or maladaptive coping skills, begin to identify as the opposite gender.

The Texas Medical Association (TMA), which had previously opposed banning gender modification, had a representative, Dr. John Carlo, testified that TMA is now neutral saying they are hoping “to make further corrections” on the bill.

“I will tell you that from the information, literature, and science that we have in front of us today, gender detransitioning is very very rare, and we’ve seen it as low as one percent,” he said.

Multiple questions were asked of Carlo to explain the change in TMA’s stance; Carlo explained that about 500 delegates come together to set positions and that they don’t have “certainty” about long-term consequences about puberty blockers to treat gender dysphoria.

One opponent of the bill, primary care physician Dr. Louis Appel, asserted that “completely taking those options off the table and making them illegal, I feel, simply doesn’t allow for individualized assessment.” He went on to explain how he doesn’t treat dysphoria and that other doctors did not feel comfortable or safe to testify.

Dr. Bethany Rife testified in support of SB 14 stating she wanted to speak directly to the lack of scientific evidence supporting the need to gender transition children. She mentions the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation for prescribing gender modification drugs, “In reviewing their policy statement, I find it to be outdated and lacking in any good data to support their stance.”

Rife continued “If I were to treat a cold with the same criteria it would be medical malpractice.”

Mary Elizabeth Castle, director of government relations for conservative advocacy group Texas Values Action, provided support for the bill, stating that “sex change operations for children are bad science, they produce terrible outcomes, and they are an exploitation of a vulnerable population.”

She went on to argue that sex is not an identity but rather a biological fact of an individual’s chromosomal make-up. She also focused on the rising numbers of young girls identifying as transgender with accompanying mental disorders.

“The Gender Affirmative Model: What We Know and What We Aim to Learn” was introduced in 2013, and “gender affirmation” has become the guiding practice for many doctors and clinicians in the United States.

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) describes “gender identity” as “a person’s basic internal sense” and sex as a “biological construct.” It states that “gender-affirming care” and medical interventions are methods for “people to transition their external body to represent who they are in their mind.”

The medical community has largely adopted a “gender-affirming care” model for treating cases of gender dysphoria. Doctors now support the idea that “gender may be fluid and is not binary.”

Multiple “detransitioners,” those who used to identify as transgender but no longer do so, also gave their testimonies on the online social influence of the transgender culture on children.

One described the process online gender activists use called “cracking the egg” of the child, “affirming” their gender dysphoria in online communities and furthering the process to eventual gender modification surgeries, “making it a one way option for care” one testimonial mentioned.

Crinna Cohn, a detransitioner, gave testimony explaining the online influence of the transgender movement: “If you go online and type in questions like, ‘am I transgender,’ you will see no limit to the number of online quizzes, forums, chat groups, all of these types of implements or assistance to help somebody rationalize their transgender identity.”

The bill was left pending at the end of the hearing and will be left waiting for a vote.

Campbell took to social media after the end of public testimony to publicly state her continued support for her bill.

“I remain deeply committed to protecting Texas children from harmful gender modification procedures,” she said.

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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.