Conservatives in Ohio are pushing a bill that would make it incredibly easy for parents to block their transgender kids from accessing the care they need. It’s perhaps one of the most dangerous anti-trans bills that has been introduced in any state.
The legislation is response to a case from earlier this year when a judge took custody away from parents who rejected their transgender child. The teen was diagnosed with gender dysphoria and was prescribed hormone therapy to help resolve the depression and anxiety associated with that dysphoria, but his parents rejected his gender identity and prohibited him from accessing any of those treatments. According to the teen, they once forced him to sit and listen to six hours of Bible verses.
After reaching out to a crisis hotline, the teen was admitted to a hospital, and the doctors refused to return him to his parents’ custody because of how unsafe he felt with them. A judge ultimately granted custody to his grandparents, who “accept their grandson for who he is.”
H.B. 658 is specifically designed to make sure the state can never intervene when parents are rejecting their transgender children as such. It lays out a litany of provisions that undermine transgender kids’ safety at every turn, including even their basic access to information about their identities. Here are just a few of its effects:
Parents have the absolute right to withhold consent from any treatment for gender dysphoria or even “activities that are designed and intended to form a child’s conceptions of sex and gender,” including any classes or educational materials related to these topics. Parents have the absolute right to dictate “what is in the best interest of the child” related to any diagnosis of gender dysphoria or any “counseling, therapy, or treatment” provided for that gender dysphoria. If a child exhibits any symptoms of gender dysphoria or expresses a gender identity different from their sex assigned at birth, schools must immediately out them to each of their parents, and the report must describe “the total circumstances with reasonable specificity.” No governmental agency can provide any gender dysphoria treatment without the written, informed consent of each of the child’s parents. There shall never be any adverse action taken against a parent for denying their children treatment for gender dysphoria. Anyone who provides gender dysphoria treatment to a child without the consent of each of the child’s parents will have committed a felony of the fourth degree, which can result in six to 18 months in prison.
It’s important to note that the various provisions require the consent of both parents or guardians. It’s not hard to imagine a scenario in which parents are divorced and one of those parents could still block the child from accessing affirming care.
The bill is nothing short of a license to abuse children by allowing parents to deny their kids medically necessary treatment. Multiple studies have shown that family acceptance is one of the most significant factors affecting the mental health of transgender kids. One study found that transgender people who experienced high levels of family rejection were three and a half times more likely to attempt suicide and two and a half times more likely to engage in substance abuse compared to those who experienced little or no family rejection.
Another pair of studies found that when families affirm their transgender children, it virtually eliminates the higher rates of depression and low self-worth transgender kids tend to experience compared to their cisgender peers. And yet another recent study found that using a child’s chosen name and pronouns can drastically reduce their depression and suicidality.
There are a number of industrious parent groups online working to invent justifications for parents to doubt the legitimacy of their transgender kids’ identities. Those groups were even profiled — if not by name — in a cover story at The Atlantic published last week. H.B. 658 caters specifically to the unwarranted skepticism these groups promulgate.
Rep. Tom Brinkman (R), one of the bill’s sponsors, said he introduced the legislation because he believes providing care to transgender kids is just a money-making scheme for those clinics. “Their concern is whether they can make more money – not whether it’s in the child’s interest,” he said at a rally in February. “If somebody doesn’t like it,” he said this week, “you’re emancipated at age 18 and you can go do whatever the heck you want.”
That’s assuming, of course, they survive that long.