CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia lawmakers in the House Judiciary Committee voted Monday to add a ban on hormone therapy to a bill prohibiting gender-affirming surgery for minors before advancing the legislation to the full House of Delegates.
The bill was greenlit after considerable conversation during which the committee’s Democratic minority raised concerns about whether it could harm minors who already are at a greater risk for experiencing mental health challenges. One Democratic lawmaker said the legislation “bullies people.”
Republicans in support of the legislation insisted that they don’t want to harm transgender and nonbinary people. They said people should wait until they are older to make elective medical decisions that can have long-term consequences.
But Democratic Dels. Joey Garcia and Evan Hansen said they were concerned that the sponsors had not spoken to enough — or any — medical providers who actually perform gender-affirming care.
Hansen said every major national medical association has come out strongly opposed to bills barring children from accessing gender-affirming care. Data indicates that 82% of transgender individuals have considered killing themselves and 40% have attempted suicide, with suicidality highest among transgender youth, according to a 2022 study published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Interpersonal Violence.
“This is a mental health crisis that (providers) are trying to address in the sense of helping kids get to adulthood and actually survive,” Hansen said. Advocates for young transgender people say decisions about health care should be left to children, their parents and their doctors.
Co-sponsor Republican Del. Todd Kirby said he and other sponsors have received emails from people against the bill saying that the bill is “transphobic.” He said his support for the bill has nothing to do with “demonization or hate towards any community.”
“It’s not a jab at any community,” he said. “It is simply us doing our duty to protect children who do not, in many instances, have the ability to protect themselves.”
“We’re not anti-transgender, we’re not anti-homosexual — at least I’m not,” Republican Del. Mike Honaker said, speaking in support of the bill. “I don’t hate anybody. I just don’t want to see a child, even with the facilitation of a parent’s help, make a decision that will drastically change their life and again, it will be irrevocable, irreversible and catastrophic.”