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Louisiana Senator Shelves Proposal To Limit Transgender Youths’ Access To Gender Therapy

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Phoebe Jones/WWNO
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Louisiana State Capitol

A Louisiana senator abandoned his effort to limit transgender youths’ access to gender-confirming healthcare and counseling after the legislation drew a surge of opposition from LGBTQ advocates and other members of the public.

Sen. Mike Fesi’s SB 104 would have prohibited transgender minors from accessing gender-confirming treatments, like hormone replacement therapy, gender-confirming surgery, and some forms of counseling, unless both parents provide written consent.

That’s a problem for transgender youth with estranged parents or parents who refuse to accept their identity.

Fesi said during Wednesday’s Senate Health and Welfare Committee hearing that his bill was intended to ensure that “children can’t go behind their parents’ back for any type of transgender care.”

“I feel this bill is important because of the extremes going on,” Fesi said, claiming that children were being “brainwashed” by internet videos.

“I’m just trying to keep our country on the right track to make sure we keep our parents involved,” he added.

More than 400 members of the public, including many transgender children and their parents, submitted “red cards” at the committee meeting, indicating their opposition to the bill.

No one submitted cards in support of the bill. Fesi voluntarily deferred the legislation before the committee could hold a vote.

Several healthcare professionals voiced their opposition to the bill.

Dr. Ryan Pasternak, a board certified pediatrician specializing in the care of adolescents, said his profession’s best practices dictate that healthcare providers have ongoing discussions with parents about their children’s care.

By requiring providers to obtain explicit written consent from both parents before even discussing a child’s gender difference, Pasternak said, this bill would have a “chilling effect” on the healthcare providers in the best position to recognize and reach out to a child in crisis.

“By putting up barriers and placing providers and their licenses at risk, these providers are going to be reluctant to ask the questions they must ask youth,” Pasternak said.

In situations where a gender-diverse child has two present and supportive parents, the requirement is inconvenient. For single-parent families, adoptive parents, or blended families where grandparents or other relatives serve as the child’s primary guardian, the requirement may be insurmountable.

Audrey Ligier, a transgender 17-year-old from New Orleans, said she began taking estrogen last week. If Fesi’s bill became law, Ligier said, her mother, who has been absent from her life for years, would have the authority to stop that treatment.

“My mother does not accept who I am as a person,” Ligier said. “Also she is very against Western medicine and would not consent to my use of gender-affirming medication.”

Cathleen Hyde, a licensed professional counselor and the parent of a nonbinary child, was among the many people expressing opposition to the bill. She said limiting access to these treatments put children like hers in jeopardy.

“Somewhere between 30 to 50 percent or more of transgender and nonbinary youth contemplate suicide,” Hyde said. “Bills like this, making it harder for these children to access the care that they need, is going to drive the suicide rate up. I for one am not willing to lose my child over a label.”

Hyde’s testimony concluded with a tense exchange with Sen. Beth Mizell (R-Franklinton) in which Mizell consistently misgendered Hyde’s child while Hyde talked through the types of therapy they had received.

(Editor’s Note: We have removed the name of Hyde’s child from the following exchange in order to protect their privacy.)

“You’re correcting me from saying ‘she’ about [your child] who is 10 years old to just say ‘they’?” Mizell asked, bristling.

“Because [my child] doesn’t identify as a female or male,” Hyde explained. “So the preferred pronoun is they, which encompasses a range. It is neither male nor female.”

“She is still a girl right now,” Mizell said.

“I didn’t disclose [my child’s] sex that they were assigned at birth,” Hyde responded.

“OK, I think this is where it gets really difficult,” Mizell said. “If it’s difficult for me, I can’t imagine what a 10-year-old is dealing with. So as a 10-year-old, she’s getting counseling to ease her through whatever change she’s going through.”

“[My child] does receive counseling — gender-affirming counseling,” Hyde said. “Without access to that counseling, I don’t know that I would have my child here today.”

Mizell, who serves as Senate President Pro Tempore, is the sponsor of SB 156, the innocuously titled “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act.” The bill would ban transgender youths from school athletics competitions. It is scheduled for consideration in the Senate Education Committee Thursday afternoon.

Fesi and Mizell’s bills are just two of several measures proposed this session that would target the rights of transgender children.

HB 575 by Rep. Gabe Firment would ban gender-confirming treatments outright. Like Mizell, Rep. Beryl Amedee has also sponsored legislation to ban transgender athletes from girls’ and women’s sports.

Earlier this year, the NCAA said it would pull its events from states that were not “free of discrimination,” meaning any anti-transgender legislation that becomes law could put New Orleans’ status as host of the 2022 Final Four at risk.

Gov. John Bel Edwards has said he would veto any such bill that reaches his desk, describing the measures as “unnecessary and discriminatory.”

"I am concerned about emotionally fragile people," Edwards said during a press conference last week. “I am hopeful that the legislature does not see fit to advance these bills.”