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Idaho lawmakers advance bill targeting transgender youth treatments

Chris Mosier at a transgender rights rally in Boise.
James Dawson
Boise State Public Radio
Chris Mosier, the first known transgender person to qualify for an Olympic trial, joined protesters in Boise, Idaho in 2019 to push back against legislation targeting transgender residents.

Some Idaho House Republicans are looking to join a handful of other states in criminalizing treatments for transgender kids.

The proposal passed out of a committee Friday morning would make it a felony for a doctor to prescribe hormones, puberty blockers or perform sex reassignment surgery.

Rep. Bruce Skaug’s (R-Nampa) bill would add those treatments for minors to Idaho’s female genital mutilation law.

Skaug said kids experiencing gender dysphoria, which means a person’s sex assigned at birth doesn’t match their gender identity, should undergo mental health counseling instead.

Plus, he said, they aren’t old enough to be making these decisions.

“If we do not allow minors to get a tattoo, drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, sign a legal contract, why would we allow them to go through these physical mutilations because of their feelings at the time,” he said.

But transgender teens who testified said they already go through months of therapy before being prescribed hormones.

Sixteen-year-old Eve Devitt said she’s struggled with gender dysphoria for as long as she can remember and had thoughts of suicide if she had to go through puberty as a boy.

“By voting yes on House Bill 675, you are voting to kill me and other kids just like me,” Devitt said.

Calvin Udall, a freshman at Boise State University, came out as a transgender man at 12 and began his medical transition at 15.

“The years before I was given access to gender-affirming health care were the worst years of my life,” Udall said.

In a 2020 opinion column published in the Idaho Press, he described how his family left the LDS church as he began transitioning and battled suicidal thoughts and self-harm.

Mainstream medical and psychiatric associations in the United States support transition-related care to treat gender dysphoria.

Skaug and other supporters of the bill questioned the safety and reversibility of treatments like puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones.

“It’s a bill to get proper treatment and to prevent them from lifelong, permanent decisions that will make them sterile and mutilate their bodies,” he said.

A 2020 study by a fertility clinic, Boston IVF, found transgender men who came off testosterone produced similar amounts of eggs compared to cisgender women after they undergo ovarian stimulation.

Since puberty blockers are only approved for children who undergo puberty at extremely early ages, they’re prescribed for transition-related care as off-label.

Studies outlined in a New York Times article from 2021 only followed the effects on children with precocious puberty. Fertility could be affected with long-term use, Dr. Jessica Kremen, a pediatric endocrinologist, told the newspaper.

Suppressing growth during puberty could also add complications for transgender women who want to undergo penile inversion vaginoplasty. That’s because tissue from the penis and testes is used to create a vaginal cavity.

If there’s not enough tissue, the trans woman may have to substitute tissue from their intestines or colon. A 2020 study found those who had taken puberty blockers were 84% more likely to need those substitutions.

Trans men, however, could potentially avoid mastectomies if puberty blockers are taken early enough to halt the development of breast tissue, the study found.

As for the effectiveness of transition-related care in treating a person’s gender dysphoria, Skaug and others said these treatments don’t improve their mental health.

That’s despite dozens of studies finding otherwise, including one published last month that found the use of puberty blockers and hormones lowered the odds of moderate and severe depression by 60% and suicidality by 73%.

Rep. Greg Chaney, who chairs the House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee, rejected a similar bill two years ago, despite agreeing with the underlying concept.

If approved, this legislation would join efforts in Arkansas, Tennessee and Texas to outlaw transition-related care for minors, which face ongoing legal challenges.

House lawmakers could take up the bill soon.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season. If you have a tip, please get in touch!

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