Idaho House Passes Very Sane Bill: Life In Prison For Giving Medical Treatment To Trans Teens
Idaho state Rep. Bruce Skaug, YouTube video screenshot.

The state of Texas has a population of 29 million. Florida is home to about 21.5 million souls. Idaho, with just 1.8 million residents as of the last Census, has far less national economic and political influence, but in the March to Madness of rightwing states, it's always a contender for the title of Craziest Place In America. Florida just passed its "Don't Say Gay" bill that would prohibit mentioning LGBTQ people in primary schools, and a couple weeks back, Texas criminalized gender-affirming care for trans kids by executive fiat.

Now Idaho legislators, not to be outdone, want to send people to prison for life if they provide such gender-affirming care to minors — and to achieve that goal, the bill's sponsor wants to amend the state's existing law banning female genital mutilation. Yes, as I so frequently have to say about my state's legislature, really.

State Rep. Bruce Skaug (R-Nampa) insists there's hardly anything controversial at all about his brainchild, Idaho House Bill 675, because as he explained to Boise TV station KTVB, it's simply a matter of "protecting children which is a legitimate state interest, we do that all of the time."

Skaug insists that all he wants to do is expand Idaho's 2019 law prohibiting female genital mutilation to also cover all minors, because isn't providing gender-affirming care to a trans kidexactly the same as a deeply scarring practice aimed at controlling women?

We need to stop sterilizing and mutilating children under the age of 18. This bill is not about the adults or adult trans community at all; it is about children. [...]
If we do not allow minors to get tattoos, smoke cigarettes, and drink alcohol or sign legal contracts why would we allow them to make decisions to cut away organs based on their feelings during puberty time? [...] That's wrong, they're not ready for that.

To be clear, the bill doesn't only ban the scary surgery Skaug enjoys describing so much, but also the prescription of puberty blockers and of hormone therapy, which are much more commonly used for patients under the age of 18. The bill wouldn't only send doctors to prison for life, it would also impose life sentences on parents who give permission for gender affirming treatment, and — just to be sure no one sneaks out of Idaho to get puberty blockers or hormone therapy — would impose the same penalty for permitting a minor to travel outside Idaho for the treatment.

MORE: What IS Gender Affirming Health Care For Kids Anyway, Because Texas Is Super F*cking Lying About It Right?

Those are already the penalties for FGM, you see, aimed at preventing immigrant parents from taking their daughters back to their home country for the mutilating surgery. Isn't it fascinating to see what was originally a feminist law turned against trans kids? That may also be part of the point.

During debate on the bill, Skaug went even further, claiming — against the vast consensus in the medical community — that if the state simply bans any treatment of trans adolescents, they would simply "go through puberty, outgrow their problem and accept their bodies over time.”

This is, of course, bullshit, as state Rep. Ilana Rubel (D-Boise) argued. Rubel noted that she'd asked a friend whose teen underwent gender-affirming treatment whether they were "really really sure" about beginning hormone therapy, and her friend made clear that "This is obviously not a step that a family takes lightly. This is a step that comes after literally thousands of hours of agonizing."

Rubel said the bill represents

the heaviest imaginable hand of government overriding family decisions on the most critical and frankly in many cases life-threatening questions.

By forcing people to wait until after puberty to begin a transition, she said, in many cases the transition becomes much more difficult because gender characteristics become so much more pronounced, including things like stature. "You are really messing with their lives until their dying day," she said.

Rubel offered some specifics to KTVB:

Say you are doing a male-to-female transition whether you do that transition when you're 5-foot-7 or whether you do it when you are 6-foot-3 with giant shoulders and an Adam's apple, it's really going to impact you for the next 70 years of your life in how successful that transition is.

That's also the consensus view among medical professionals, like the American Academy of Pediatrics, which supports gender-affirming treatment — not that mere medical experts should be listened to, according to bigots, because maybe it's all just a fad.

If you haven't done so already, give a listen to this interview about gender-affirming care with Dr. Izzy Lowell, who provides gender-affirming care to trans teens in 10 southern states — half of which already have various laws against providing gender-affirming medical care, although none of them impose a life goddamn sentence for doing so.

As Dr. Lowell, who is herself trans, makes clear, these laws criminalizing gender affirming treatment are all based in the deeply flawed notion that people simply decide capriciously that they're transgender, and so, since kids may change their minds later, the state must prevent them from making a terrible decision they'll regret later. In reality, says Lowell, the main effect for trans teens whose parents help them get the treatment they need is just plain relief — they begin going through puberty with the gender that's right for them — and they're every bit as comparatively happy as anyone else in a late capitalist society where everybody's alienated and neurotic (Lowell isn't too fond of the term "normal," and thinks no crazier than anyone else better fits reality).

But if you really want to harm trans kids, Lowell says, go ahead and pass laws like these:

These kids are 15, 16, 17 and their state is saying that they're wrong, their existence is wrong. I don't know what that does to the psyche of a 16 year old to have your state basically say that who you are and what you're doing is illegal.

Lowell also pointed out that if a legislature actually managed to make it utterly impossible for trans teens to get treatment, those who had already begun puberty blockers or hormone therapy would have severe medical reactions:

it would be devastating. So if someone has been taking estrogen for several years and then they stop it, they would go through like instantaneous menopause symptoms. Menopause takes a year or two to go through and they would go through menopause overnight, basically, as a teenager.

They would have hot flashes, irritability, night sweats, incredible mood swings. They would no longer continue developing breast tissue. That wouldn't regress exactly, but their estrogen level would drop and they would have basically no sex hormones in their body until their body started reproducing testosterone. [...]

At that point, they would start to transition into a man. They would start growing hair in all sorts of places they didn't want it. They would become more muscular. They might even grow taller at that point and basically go onward with male puberty, which they had never wanted in the first place.

Similar changes would hit someone who'd begun transitioning with male hormones. Isn't it a wonderful thing that Idaho Republicans want to protect the children this way? To say nothing of the very well-documented research showing trans kids are far more likely to attempt suicide than their peers.

HB 675 passed the Idaho House 55-13 Tuesday, with all 12 Democrats voting against it. They were joined by just one Republican, Dr. Fred Wood of Burley. We'll just note he's the only physician in the state House. Maybe his colleagues should give that some thought.

The bill now goes to the state Senate, where one can only hope it will be killed in committee, but who knows? It's freaking Idaho.

[ Idaho HB 675 / KTVB-TV / Idaho Press / Why is This Happening (transcript)]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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