On Thursday, Texas senators heard nine hours of testimony about bills that, among other restrictions, would limit transgender youth and adults from accessing gender-affirming care and changing the sex on their birth certificates.
The proposals come as transgender rights have become a hot-button political issue in Texas and nationally, along with a host of anti-LGBTQ measures.
Most attention was on Senate Bill 14, written by Senator Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, that would have prevented doctors from prescribing puberty blockers and hormone drugs and performing surgeries to treat minors diagnosed with gender dysphoria or psychological distress for their gender identity different from their sex at birth. Puberty blockers and hormones are common treatments for transgender youth, while surgeries are extremely rare.
The bill would also require the Texas Medical Board to revoke the licenses of physicians who provide gender-affirming care and prohibit taxpayer funds from being used for such care or from going to any person or entity that “provides or facilitates” the treatment .
Campbell, who is an emergency room doctor, said the bill was “all about protecting children” and fighting what he called the “cottage industry” of medical professionals who prey on transgender children with the hope of profiting from their expensive treatments.
“Sometimes we have to work hard against something to fight for something,” Campbell said, as he explained the bill. “Our children need counseling and love, not blades and drugs.”
Opponents say measures like Campbell’s will endanger the mental and physical well-being of transgender youth already at risk.
The Medical Association of Texas did not take a stand on SB 14, despite previously opposing attempts to limit or criminalize gender-affirming care. Dr John Carlo, who testified on behalf of the group, said the group would like to be the enforcement body, rather than the state, and would prefer patients who are already on hormone therapy to be treated like grandparents.
There’s always a degree of uncertainty in medicine, Carlo said, but “the best evidence we have to date is what we’re using to care for our patients.” All major medical associations, including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Psychiatric Association, consider transitional care to be medically necessary.
As of this week, eight states — Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Mississippi and Florida — are limiting transition care for transgender minors, according to NBC. More than two dozen other states are considering restrictions.
Unlike previous sessions, transgender children were largely absent on Thursday. LGBTQ advocates say parents are too afraid to risk losing custody of their children, as Republican state leaders have pushed for investigations into those who openly allow gender-affirming medical care for their underage children. Many advocates said they have advised affected families to instead allow others to speak on their behalf at public hearings.
Several transgender adults testified Thursday, including Dr. Cody Pyke, who is a transgender and non-binary woman. Pyke pointed to research showing that transgender youth are at a higher risk of suicide and transgender people are at a higher risk of becoming victims of violent crime.
“Since transitioning, I have been subjected to physical and verbal assaults from complete strangers on the street,” Pyke said. “It’s not a fad; it is not a social contagion. It’s a true identity and we deserve your protection, not your hate.”
The committee invited several people who once identified as transgender and transitioned but have since reversed course, commonly referred to as “detransitionists,” to tell their stories. Many of them were from out of state.
One of them, Abel Garcia, who moved from California to Dallas, said his therapists pushed him into medical procedures he didn’t want. Garcia and the others described the difficulty they encountered in trying to get treatment to help them detransition.
“Because of being harmed, betrayed and lied to by the medical system in the state of California, I have no more trust in them, than any medical professional,” Garcia said.
In the final three hours of the hearing, the Senate committee also heard testimony on three other bills that could impact transgender Texans. While most of Thursday’s testimony was calm, tensions reached a fever pitch when Houston GOP activist Steven Hotze was ejected from the hearing for profanity. Moments earlier he had been asked by a Democratic senator to refrain from calling trans supporters “pedophiles” and he had refused.
SB 162, authored by Senator Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, would prohibit a person from changing the sex on their birth certificate except to correct clerical errors or make a new sex determination for an intersex person.
SB 250 and SB 1029, both written by Senator Bob Hall, R-Edgewood, shared similarities with Campbell’s bill. They would also ban gender-affirming treatments and, moreover, prevent professional liability insurance companies from covering the doctors who provide these treatments. The latter would also make the private insurance companies that cover gender-affirming care liable for the costs of canceling that care if the patient withdraws.
All four bills were left pending in committee on Thursday. The committee can vote them on for the entire house at any future meeting, and after they pass the Senate, they would then go to the Texas House for approval.
Also on Thursday, the committee moved a bill, supported by both Abbott and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, that would require transgender college athletes to play on teams that don’t align with their gender identity.