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Tennessee Lawmakers Debate Ban On Treatment For Transgender Teens

Chas Sisk
WPLN News (file)

A new bill in the Tennessee legislature could impact transgender youths’ access to transitioning treatment. The measure proposes a ban on gender-affirming medical care before puberty.

The proposal is one of several in the state legislature this year that target transgender people. Lawmakers are scheduled to vote Thursday morning on a measure that would bar transgender athletes from playing sports consistent with their gender identity. Another measure would create new signage requirements for businesses that allow transgender people to use their restrooms.

The latest proposal, House Bill 578/Senate Bill 657, started progressing this week through the state legislature. If passed, it would ban gender-affirming treatment, such as hormone blockers, in transgender youth who have not reached puberty. Older teens would need the permission of two doctors and one child psychiatrist to receive treatments.

The measure’s sponsor, state Rep. John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, says minors lack the maturity to make decisions about gender-affirming medical care. He also attacked the concept that people can be transgender.

“The idea that we can defy reality by saying we think this is the way it is or we feel this is the way it is, is an absurdity,” he said.

The American Psychiatric Association recommends gender affirmation for transgender youth, including medical treatment. Otherwise, children can suffer from gender dysphoria, psychological distress caused by difference between a person’s expressed and assigned gender.

Aly Chapman, an LGBT activist, says the measure will make the already difficult task of finding that care in Tennessee even harder. She is the mother of a transgender child.

“Particularly kids who are receiving gender affirming care, to suddenly interrupt that,” she said. “I just can’t even describe the amount of trauma that would cause and lead to.”

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