Ban on gender-affirming care for youth gets green light from Kentucky Senate committee
This story mentions suicide and mental health issues. If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, you can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by phone at 988, or online at https://988lifeline.org/.
If you’re looking for transgender peer support, you can reach Trans Kentucky at 859-448-5428 or online at transkentucky.com. You can also contact the Trevor Project, which provides free, confidential counselors who specialize in helping LGBTQ youth.
Wide-ranging restrictions that would affect transgender youth’s access to gender-affirming medical care and how they’re treated in public schools got a green light Tuesday from a Kentucky Senate committee.
However, four of the eight Republicans on the Senate Families and Children Committee expressed concerns about the latest version of House Bill 470.
“I’m extremely uncomfortable putting myself in the place where a doctor should be. … However, I feel a complete obligation to protect our kids,” said Sen. Danny Carroll, the committee’s chairman, who added that he’s working on changes to the bill.
“I hate the tone of the bill. I think we could’ve accomplished what we needed to accomplish without going so far.”
HB 470 originally focused mainly on prohibiting health care professionals from providing gender-affirming medical services to anyone under 18 years old, even though major national and state medical associations say those services are part of their recommended standards of care for trans youth.
Now HB 470 includes new elements that also are opposed by advocates for LGBTQ people. It directs school districts to develop rules for students’ use of bathrooms and locker rooms, and does so in a way that could prompt schools to block trans students from using the facilities that correspond with their gender identity.
It also prevents public schools from allowing any educational presentations that study gender identity or sexual orientation. That quickly drew comparisons to Florida’s infamous “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
HB 470 encompasses a measure from Sen. Max Wise, as well, that would let teachers misgender trans students and require advance notice for students’ parents about lessons related to human sexuality.
Wise, a Republican from Campbellsville, has framed his proposal as supporting parents’ rights. He voted to greenlight HB 470 at Tuesday’s committee hearing.
At that meeting, Republican Sen. Stephen Meredith of Leitchfield invoked the same idea of parents’ rights in explaining why he voted against advancing HB 470.
“Throughout this legislative session we have promoted bills to support parents’ rights, and I still think that’s where this should lie,” he said. “I would hope and pray that parents would always make the very best decision for their children. I think for the most part they do. But intervention beyond that, I think, is also just a bridge too far.”
The aspects of HB 470 that would prevent trans youth from accessing gender-affirming medical care in Kentucky were the main focus of Tuesday’s hearing.
That kind of care includes hormone therapy as well as puberty blockers. The latter type of treatments delay puberty and are reversible.
Generally speaking, gender-affirming care already is difficult for trans minors and adults to access. Experts say the decision for a trans person under 18 years old to receive puberty blockers or hormone therapy is reached through careful consultations between the child, their parents and their health care providers, as recommended by major medical associations.
It’s incredibly rare for a minor to receive any form of gender-affirming surgery.
Under HB 470, a doctor would lose their medical license if they provide such services to a minor. The Kentucky Medical and Psychological Associations both oppose the bill.
Republican Rep. Jennifer Decker of Waddy, who sponsored the bill, suggested health care providers who speak up in support of gender-affirming care are financially motivated.
“So when you hear medical professionals who are defending their practices, they are also defending their bottom line,” she said Tuesday. “I submit that this is the business of government: to protect the most vulnerable of its citizens.”
Decker was joined Tuesday by several people who testified in support of the bill, including Dr. Andre Van Mol of California, who’s affiliated with the American College of Pediatricians – an organization the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated as an anti-LGBTQ hate group.
Research has shown trans and nonbinary youths who've received gender-affirming care have experienced reductions in depression and suicidal thoughts. A 2022 national survey by a suicide prevention organization called The Trevor Project indicated over 50% of trans and nonbinary youths had seriously considered suicide within the last year.
Bobbie Glass, a former Jefferson County teacher who is transgender, told state senators Tuesday, “Well I’m telling you right now, these kids, you are forcing them into early graves. … You are the ones that are about to legislate irreversible damage.”