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Lawmaker begs trans kids not to give up in impassioned speech against trans healthcare ban

Georgia state Rep. Karla Drenner, gender-affirming care, transgender healthcare ban, speech, suicide, don't kill yourself
Georgia state Rep. Karla Drenner (D) Photo: YouTube screenshot

Georgia state Rep. Karla Drenner (D) made an emotional plea for transgender youth in her state who will be harmed by legislation banning gender-affirming care: “Please don’t kill yourself.”

Drenner made her plea in a Thursday House floor speech against S.B. 140, a bill that would prohibit medical professionals from giving minors hormone replacement therapies or gender-affirming surgeries (which are rarely, if ever, performed on minors). The bill doesn’t ban the prescription of puberty blockers.

“I am so sad today,” her speech began, according to Raw Story. “I’ve been here 23 years. I was the first openly gay state representative in the south. I have bared witness to lots of bills over the years that have impacted the LGBTQ community.”

“What you are talking about today is somebody’s child,” she continued. “You are telling these parents that they are bad parents because they want to take care of their children. I believe that you mean well, but this is wrong.”

“To all the children in our state that are going to be negatively impacted, please don’t lose hope,” she said. “Please don’t give up. Please don’t kill yourself. This world is worth it. We need you.”

“Please don’t vote for this bill,” she concluded.

The bill is expected to pass the state’s Republican-led Senate.

Drenner is correct that banning gender-affirming care increases suicidality among trans youth. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, and other major medical and mental health organizations consider gender-affirming medical care as necessary and cite studies showing that such care reduces mental anguish and suicide risk among trans youth.

The text of S.B. 140 accurately says that there has been a “massive unexplained rise in diagnoses of gender dysphoria among children over the past 10 years.” The number of new gender dysphoria diagnoses in the United States among patients ages 6 to 17 rose from 15,172 in 2017 to 42,167 in 2021 — a nearly 178 percent increase — according to Komodo Health Inc., a medical data firm.

Pediatricians and child psychiatrists told The Guardian that the increase may be due to a variety of factors, including: greater social awareness and acceptance of trans identities via social media; the willingness of schools to accommodate student gender identities with name and pronoun changes and use of restroom and locker room facilities; the increased number of hospitals and clinics serving and reporting data on gender-affirming care-seekers; and an uncertainty amongst some medical professionals on when to issue a gender dysphoria diagnosis.

“Left-handedness increased over time after we stopped punishing left-handed children in schools, because some children are naturally left-handed and were now able to express it,” said Cleo Madeleine, a spokesperson for the trans support group Gendered Intelligence, told the aforementioned publication.

“In the same way, increased visibility and acceptance of trans people has led to a gradual increase in young people who feel comfortable expressing their trans identity. The most important thing is to recognize that this is not a problem to be solved or a bad outcome to be avoided,” she added.

The text of S.B. 140 also says that “a significant portion of children with gender dysphoria do not persist in their gender dysphoric conditions past early adulthood,” and “adults have regretted undergoing such treatment (in younger years) and the permanent physical harm it caused.”

But data suggests that these claims about de-transitioning are incorrect, and beyond that, physical changes caused by hormone-replacement therapy are reversible.

A 2015 survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality found that only 8 percent of nearly 28,000 respondents had de-transitioned, and some of these respondents hadn’t had gender-affirming surgeries. Of this eight percent (representing 2,240 individuals), 62 percent said they only de-transitioned temporarily — that is, 1,389 people had de-transitioned temporarily.

This means that only 851 trans-identified survey respondents had permanently de-transitioned — about 3 percent of all trans respondents. Put another way, the Georgia state legislature is pushing this bill based on an experience shared by only 3 percent of all trans people. And some of these people may have de-transitioned to end the transphobic harassment and violence they faced for living as out trans people.

Editor’s note: This article mentions suicide. If you need to talk to someone now, call the Trans Lifeline at 1-877-565-8860. It’s staffed by trans people, for trans people. The Trevor Project provides a safe, judgement-free place to talk for LGBTQ youth at 1-866-488-7386. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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