State SenateTexas Senate Approves Ban on Puberty Blockers, Sex-Change Surgeries for Minors

Like other similar bans, Senate Bill 1646 would officially count puberty blockers and gonadectomies as child abuse.
April 29, 2021
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A ban on procedures to change a child’s sex will move to the Texas House after the upper chamber approved it 18 to 12, with one senator present but not voting.

Carried by Sen. Charles Perry (R-Lubbock), the bill is one of several proposals aimed at stopping sex-change procedures, often referred to as “gender-affirming health care,” for minors.

Each bill differs slightly on enforcement. Perry’s bill would officially classify these procedures as child abuse and let Child Protective Services (CPS) handle such cases accordingly.

Some, though not all, of the Democrat members foretold grave consequences for transgender youths upon passage of the bill.

“I know that there is good intention here,” Sen. Sarah Eckhardt (D-Austin) acknowledged.

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“This bill is not protection. I know that the intention is to protect, but it’s not. And it is a continuing pattern of condemnation, actually. Condemnation of a class of people.”

Sen. José Menéndez (D-San Antonio) alluded to suicide as a potential or tangential result of the bill’s passage, a common concern from Democrats throughout testimony and along the bill’s path to the Senate vote.

“We’ve heard a lot about research,” Menéndez said. “I don’t talk about suicide to be dramatic. I say it because it’s serious, and because we are minutes from passing a bill that will be another avenue to discriminate against our transgender youth.”

Sen. Nathan Johnson (D-Dallas) brought up the Amsterdam Cohort, a study of transgender regret after physical sex changes, as evidence that children with gender dysphoria rarely want to reverse their choices. The study, a simple retrospective review of all people who attended a particular Dutch gender identity clinic from 1972 to 2015, found that only 0.6 percent of transgender women and 0.3 percent of transgender men regretted undergoing the surgeries.

During testimony, opponents of Perry’s bill sometimes referred to the Amsterdam Cohort as a rebuttal to competing studies that suggest regret may be highly common among children who transition and then reach their twenties. Austin Institute Executive Director Kevin Stuart, a social sciences researcher, mentioned a 2021 study of the largest sample to date of boys clinic-referred for gender dysphoria, which found that nearly 88 percent of them resolved their issues later on. Referring to this and similar studies, Sen. Bob Hall (R-Friendswood) has frequently called puberty the “natural cure” for gender dysphoria.

The Amsterdam Cohort tracks adults while the latter study includes only children.

During committee testimony, supporters and opponents of the bill each counted doctors among their ranks, showing a rift in the medical community between established associations and some individual practitioners who often claimed the medical institution’s embrace of transgender surgery has been motivated more by profit than science. The current president of the Texas Psychological Association testified against the bill, breaking ranks with the group’s former president who held the office in 2004 and testified strongly in favor of the legislation.

Families also showed a strong presence at the testimonies, most prominently Jeff Younger, the father of Texas child James Younger whose story inspired the first effort to ban these procedures in the Texas legislature. James’ mother believes that he is a transgender girl who goes by the name Luna, while his father contends that James presents himself as a boy when not with his mother. Transgender youths and their parents testified against the proposals, saying that hormonal treatment and surgeries in their teenage years were helpful.

The typically courteous Senate turned a bit more quarrelsome as the vote neared, with Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston) accusing Perry and other bill supporters of being transphobic.

“I really think this is one of the few life-and-death matters that we’ll be discussing,” Whitmire said.

“Today it’s very clear that the proponents of this bill do not like the transgender families.”

Perry denied Whitmire’s accusations and said he feels sympathy for children suffering from gender dysphoria and does not oppose efforts to transition after adulthood.

“We’re not doing anything but giving the child options… When they get to the maturity level and choose to do that, that’s an informed decision,” Perry said.

“I respect every one of the folks that spoke against the bill… I don’t dislike the LGBTQ community. That’s not what my faith tells me to do… I empathize, and I also hurt.”

While medical experts testified on both sides of the bill, Perry said the moral element of the issue cannot be ignored.

“Nowhere, in good conscience, do I think I can sleep well at night knowing that there are children who will have irreparable things done to their bodies,” he said.

“I will never run from the opportunity to recognize that I am answerable to one thing and to one thing only, and that’s a sovereign creator.”

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Isaiah Mitchell

Isaiah Mitchell

Isaiah Mitchell is a reporter for The Texan, a Texas native, and a huge Allman Brothers fan. He graduated cum laude from Trinity University in 2020 with a degree in English. Isaiah loves playing music and football with his family.

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