For transgender teens and other kids who aren’t sure of their gender, puberty blockers can be vital. But this week, Republican lawmakers in the South Dakota state legislature introduced a bill that, if signed into law, would criminalize the provision of transgender health care to minors, as NBC News reported on Thursday.
Also known as puberty inhibitors, these drugs basically allow young people to hit pause on all the more major physical changes brought on by puberty—like facial hair growth, breast development, the deepening of the voice, and the menstrual cycle—until they feel more ready to decide if something like hormone replacement therapy is right for them.
House Bill 1057 would make it a Class 4 felony for medical providers—i.e., physicians, nurses, and medical assistants—to provide certain forms of gender-affirming treatment including surgery and the prescription of hormones, anti-androgens, and puberty blockers to trans kids under the age of 18. Class 4 felonies in South Dakota carry with them a penalty of up to 10 years in prison.
In introducing the bill—one of about half a dozen deeply transphobic pieces of legislation targeting trans children introduced to the South Dakota state house over the past two years—state Rep. Fred Deutsch called medicine like puberty blockers “dangerous,” telling his fellow lawmakers that trans youth should hit the “pause button” on making such an “overwhelming and life-changing” decision until they’re 18.
Who’s gonna tell him?
That’s literally what puberty blockers do! They let trans and questioning kids hit the “pause button” until they’re ready to make the “overwhelming and life-changing” decision of whether they want their body permanently altered by the hormones their body would otherwise produce.
There are some possible long-term side effects concerning bone density and future fertility to consider, of course, and they should be discussed in detail with a medical provider before starting treatment, just like with any other form of care that carries side effects. But there are many people for whom taking puberty blockers is the best possible decision, one that can be made with care and with the proper information.
But is that really what Deutsch and all his other Republican lawmakers are concerned about? Or is he more focused on limiting trans kids’ rights to self-determination? Considering the fact that he co-sponsored an unsuccessful bathroom bill back in 2016, I’d say it’s the latter.
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