PIERRE, South Dakota — The first bill of its kind introduced to protect children from the irreversible effects of high-dose hormones and transgender surgeries was defeated earlier this month before a Senate health committee in South Dakota.
Moves to introduce similar bills in a dozen other states and the emergence of thousands of “de-transitioning” and regretful transgender patients, however, indicate that new political and legal battles have just begun on America’s gender-wars front.
State Rep. Fred Deutsch, R-Florence, introduced Bill 1057, the Vulnerable Children’s Act, in January to bar doctors in his state from prescribing powerful puberty-blocking drugs, high-dose opposite-sex hormones and from performing sex-change surgeries such as double mastectomies and castrations on children under the age of 16, who may not understand the life-altering consequences of these therapies.
“Children who suffer from not knowing if they’re a boy or a girl, like all children, deserve love and compassion, but the drugs and surgeries listed in this bill are in most cases a one-way street,” Deutsch said when he introduced the bill.
“On no other issue do we allow a child’s self-assertion to be the basis for such life-altering decisions or to allow children to undergo such permanent changes to their bodies.”
“As you all know, in South Dakota, we don’t allow children to smoke, play video lottery, buy a South Dakota lottery ticket, gamble … or consume alcohol. Why is that?” Deutsch asked the House of Representatives. “It’s because children aren’t prepared or qualified to make decisions of this magnitude even though they believe they may be.”
Deutsch said that Planned Parenthood advertises for “transgender services” in the Mount Rushmore State, as does Sanford Health and Rapid City Regional Hospital. He said at least four doctors at these facilities prescribe gender-confused children puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones, and at least one surgeon performs mastectomies on girls who want to look like boys. A booklet from Transforming South Dakota featured an 11-year-old child undergoing transgender therapies.
“We’re trying to give these children a pause,” Deutsch told the Register. “Not a chemical pause, but just giving them time to grow up and mature.”
The South Dakota Catholic Conference issued a statement in support of Bill 1057, saying it would “ensure children, especially those experiencing distress concerning their sex, are given the chance to develop and grow in understanding the gift of their created nature without pressures towards harmful medicalization.”
‘I Trusted the Doctors’
A 20-year-old who testified in support of Deutsch’s bill described to the hearings how she had been “a healthy, beautiful girl heading toward high-school graduation; but after taking testosterone for a year, I turned into an overweight, prediabetic nightmare of a transgender man.”
“I was diagnosed with gender dysphoria, a mental-health condition. I was treated with megadoses of powerful testosterone that ravaged my body, caused me to gain 50 pounds, and put me at risk for heart disease, diabetes and teenage menopause,” said Sydney Wright.
“These are regretful choices I made as a teenager. But I trusted the doctor’s advice. They were the experts. Who was I not to listen to them? They didn’t even talk to me about other treatment options,” said Wright. “The only advice I got was to take megadoses of testosterone.”
California-based endocrinologist Michael Laidlaw testified that “a high proportion of patients with gender confusion actually have other neuropsychiatric problems.” He cited a Finnish study in which 75% of patients with gender dysphoria were undergoing psychiatric treatment for reasons other than gender confusion, and 26% were diagnosed on the autism spectrum.
The common practice of using puberty-blocking drugs like Lupron to prevent sexual maturation “causes a disease state, actually, and freezes normal development,” Laidlaw said, adding that the effects are not completely reversible. “A key period of strengthening bone is lost forever. Sex-dependent brain-development time is lost forever.”
Opposite-sex hormones given to minors to make their bodies more aesthetically like the opposite sex have documented dangers, said Laidlaw.
“Testosterone is being used on girls at dangerously high doses,” he said, “10 to 40 times above the normal female level, which is related to hypertension and breast, uterine and ovarian cancer risks.”
Laidlaw said young males given high doses of the female hormone estrogen face side-effects, including a 500% increased risk of deadly blood clots and embolisms, a doubled risk of strokes and increased risk of male breast cancer and heart attacks.
Laidlaw pointed to one study in which U.S. girls as young as 13 and 14 had surgeries to remove both healthy breasts as part of their gender reassignment.
“Surgeries for males include dissecting the penis and converting it up into a pelvic wound; for girls, the removal of the skin of the forearm and attachment to the pelvis to make it look like a penis. Possible surgical complications for these children include infections, chronic pain, urethral strictures and death.”
Studies show that the majority of these children and adolescents, if allowed to progress through natural puberty, will eventually “re-embrace their bodies,” Laidlaw said, but transgender procedures leave them permanently sterilized and with medical conditions.
“The transgender diagnosis has no blood test, no genetic or chromosomal or other objective confirmation,” Kevin Donovan, a pediatrician and director of the Pellegrino Center for Clinical Bioethics, told the Register. “We’re making this diagnosis based on persistent thoughts and feelings, and we are treating a psychological condition with powerful hormones and surgery, which goes against a certain level of common sense. The principle of ‘do no harm’ has been totally overridden.”
Donovan pointed out that many state legislators have already banned therapy that seeks to help people overcome their dysphoria with counseling. They have no problem with the “double-standard” of overriding patients and parents’ and doctors’ therapy preferences in those cases, he said.
‘Detransitioners’ and ‘Regretters’
Thousands of “detransitioners” and “regretters” who are trying to reverse their sexual transitions now feature on social-media platforms like YouTube and Facebook.
Elle Palmer, 29, describes in a recent YouTube video how she transitioned to male after she was sexually abused by an older male — a common theme from female-to-male transitioners. Palmer said she joined transgender reddit discussions.
“So the only people I talked to on a daily basis were the people that I talked to online, and that definitely didn’t help. I was basically consumed by trans media online,” she said.
A therapist at an “LGBT” center was “excited to help me transition,” she explained, and Palmer says she put her on hormones on the first day of therapy. Ironically, as she is reembracing her femininity today, Palmer said she is now viewed as a transgender man because of her permanently altered deep voice.
“I’m 16, and my body is ruined,” another “regretter” posted recently on a “Detransition” redditt page with 9,500 members. “I destroyed every piece of me that made me a female, or at least the parts that made me look and feel like one. ... Just don’t really see the point in living if it’s gonna be like this. I can’t believe that everyone in my life failed me so hard. How are we letting insecure 14-year-old girls make the decision to mutilate and ruin their bodies? I’m angry at this sick agenda.”
A convert to Catholicism nearly 40 years ago, Rep. Deutsch told the Register his parents were Jewish and his father survived the Holocaust. He said that statements he had made in an interview, about how the scars of mutilated young transgendered people had reminded him of pictures of the Holocaust experiments, had blown up in the national and international media to make him look like he was comparing gender doctors to Nazis.
Twitter messages including, “Prepare to die” and “Who wants to kill a congressman?” were posted with his home address on Twitter, and police were patrolling his house as a result. Deutsch told the Register that Bill 1057 was “the first bill in the nation to pushback against the transgender agenda for children,” but he hadn’t expected the brutal opposition. “This is getting a little crazy,” said Deutsch. “I think the opposition understands that what we’re doing is important.”
“So much of this is God’s providence,” Deutsch told the Register.
Within the state’s House, opposition to the bill came from a number of doctors, including the American Academy of Pediatrics’ state representative, Michelle Schimelpfenig, who said it “criminalizes medicine.”
Deutsch told the hearings that David Owen, president of the South Dakota Chamber of Commerce and Industry, had told him that the chamber would remain neutral on the bill but had added, “You know, the chamber has no morals.” At the hearings, Owen testified against Bill 1057, saying that “phones ring” and that “draconian discrimination statutes” would cost the state.
Candi Brings Plenty, a representative of the state American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and a coalition of “LGBTQ” and “Two-Spirit” (a modern American Indian term for transgender) organizations, said that the law would affect more than 500 children in the state. “My child is nonbinary and gender fluid and also identifies as a demi-boy,” she said. “In her school alone there are 17 children who identify as nonbinary.” Generally, “nonbinary” refers to not identifying as either sex exclusively, or bisexual, while “gender fluid” refers to a person’s sexual identity changing over time or from day to day.
Ironically, James Shupe, America’s first legally nonbinary person, the high-profile transgender activist who fought and won to have his sex recorded on his driver’s license as an “X” rather than male or female, publicly recanted his position last week. In a Daily Signal blog, Shupe said, “I lied about not being male,” and he called his transgender campaign a “selfish quest to nourish my long-held sexual fantasy of being a woman — a mental disorder called autogynephilia.” Shupe has become a Christian. “In Christ, I am a new creation,” he concluded. “‘The old has gone; the new has come.’”
The nonbinary term was prominently in play in South Dakota, however. “I identify as nonbinary, too,” Brings Plenty told the Register. Asked if she had any sympathy for young detransitioners like Wright who feel abused and deceived by the drug and medical industry, she said, “I have to defer that question. The way I am perceiving this, I could see in the body language and the faces of the nonbinary people in the legislature the hurt that they were receiving from our own elected officials being transphobic and pushing a hate bill.”
Nearly half of the 105 members of the South Dakota Legislature sponsored Bill 1057, which sailed through the house on a vote of 46-23 and passed the South Dakota House Affairs Committee by a vote of 8-5. Sen. Wayne Steinhauer, R-Hartford, made the motion to defeat the bill in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee this week, and it failed by a vote of five to two.
Similar bills have been introduced in a dozen states, including the Florida Senate and House and in in Oklahoma, South Carolina and Colorado. Five proposed laws in Missouri would ban health-care providers from prescribing gender-reassignment drugs and surgeries and would report parents who sign off on the procedures to state authorities. Alabama is the latest state.
“As greater numbers of young, impressionable teenagers undergo dangerous and damaging physical procedures in an effort to combat emotional challenges, the number of detransitioners will continue to skyrocket,” Deutsch emailed after the South Dakota bill went down. “As evidenced by the many states introducing similar legislation to safeguard children, the battle has just begun.”
Celeste McGovern writes from Nova Scotia, Canada.