Republicans in Colorado’s legislature introduced a bill Wednesday that would impose criminal penalties on doctors who provide gender-affirming care for transgender youth.
The “Protect Minors From Mutilation and Sterilization Act” would make it a class 3 felony for health care providers to offer any sort of treatment for the purpose of “facilitating sex reassignment of a minor,” including surgical intervention or the use of drugs or hormones.
In a press release, Daniel Ramos, executive director of the LGBTQ advocacy organization One Colorado, described the bill as “one of the most extreme and direct attacks on transgender youth in Colorado’s history.”
“Medical care for transgender youth should be determined by healthcare professionals, not politicians,” he added.
In an article addressing policy debates regarding transgender youth, The Endocrine Society wrote that “many of the claims being made about gender-affirming care for transgender and gender-incongruent individuals are inaccurate,” and that “claims that a transgender child would receive surgical or irreversible hormonal treatment do not reflect the reality of medical practice.”
Its Clinical Practice Guideline, which outlines best practices for the care of transgender individuals, states that “pubertal physical changes are unbearable” for many trans adolescents, and recommends delaying the process with puberty-blocking medication to give the individual more time to explore their gender identity until they’re old enough to make decisions about more intensive health care options.
“As compared with starting gender-affirming treatment long after the first phases of puberty, a benefit of pubertal suppression at early puberty may be a better psychological and physical outcome,” The Endocrine Society continues.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, and the American Psychological Association, all mainstream medical associations, support this kind of gender-affirming care for minors.
“This bill, and other similar legislation being introduced in states around the country, are meant to embolden the dehumanization of the transgender community,” said state Rep. Brianna Titone (D-Arvada), the first openly transgender person elected to the state legislature. “By denying appropriate and affirming healthcare, we are setting trans youth up for a more difficult future and the possibility of depression or suicide. We need to value our young people and allow our healthcare professionals to make the decisions, and not be limited by politicians. We won’t be erased.”
Research shows alarmingly high rates of suicide among transgender youth.
One study from the American Academy of Pediatrics showed that more than half of transgender male teens attempted suicide in their lifetime. Rejection by family, discrimination, and harassment are known to be serious risk factors. Researchers at UCLA found that transgender adults who are denied health care are more likely to report having suicidal thoughts or actions.
The bill’s prime sponsor is state Rep. Shane Sandridge (R-Colorado Springs), with additional sponsorship from House Minority Leader Patrick Neville (R-Castle Rock) and others.
Conservatives at Colorado’s Capitol also introduced a bill to create the “Live and Let Live Act,” which would allow public and private businesses to legally refuse service to LGBTQ people based on “sincerely held” religious beliefs. The bill, which has been criticized by LGBTQ advocates as a license to discriminate, has failed in previous years.