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Why so many states are seeing bills aimed at trans families right now

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

In Texas, a state judge says families seeking gender-affirming care for their trans kids should not be investigated for child abuse, at least for now. The ruling could be reversed on appeal, and Texas is not the only state where this battle is playing out.

Joining us now to talk more about this is NPR's Wade Goodwyn in Dallas. Hey, Wade.

WADE GOODWYN, BYLINE: Hello.

CHANG: So tell us what happened in court here.

GOODWYN: Well, what we heard during the testimony, it was Friday, in State District Judge Amy Clark Meachum's court, this testimony came from a supervisor from the Department of Family and Protective Services who told the court she just quit her state career job because of orders they'd received in late February which instructed them to start investigating Texas families who were providing transgender care for one of their children. The supervisor testified they'd been ordered by their bosses not to use emails or text to communicate with one another about these transgender investigations. So she quit.

CHANG: Well, opponents of gender-affirming care call it child abuse. Can you just explain their argument?

GOODWYN: Well, I think what they really want to stop here is the medical treatment that pubescent children began to receive when they start transgender care. They feel this medical care about the child abuse. Here's Jay Richards. He's a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, and he focuses and opposes medical treatment for transgender children.

JAY RICHARDS: So there's two kinds of drug intervention. There is puberty-blocking drugs, which usually take place early before puberty kicks in, and then there are cross-sex hormones, which come later. Yeah, you can stop administering puberty-blocking drugs, but we know it has physiological effects, some of which may be damaging and irreversible.

GOODWYN: So those opposed to transgender treatment in Texas don't want to have any medical treatment for a transgender kid until that kid's 18 years old.

CHANG: Well, as we mentioned, Texas is not the only place where this battle is being fought. Can you just give us an idea of the landscape right now? Like, where else are these fights going on?

GOODWYN: Yeah, you're exactly right. One hundred eight transgender bills have been introduced in 34 states in the last three months. Let's just take, like - for two, for example, Idaho and Alabama. In Alabama, a bill may soon be headed to the governor's desk that will make it a felony to provide gender-affirming care for transgender children. And if a family or a doctor provides transgender medical care, they could be convicted of a felony and get 10-year sentence. And in Idaho this past Tuesday, the House passed a bill which could result in a life sentence if anyone knowingly gives permission for a child or a teen to receive hormone therapy. And that's what delays puberty.

Here's Kasey Suffredini, the national director of Freedom for All Americans, which fights for nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people and transgender children.

KASEY SUFFREDINI: I think the most important thing for people to understand is the decisions that these parents are making are very closely guided by doctors, by therapists who are working directly with individual children following best practices that have been, you know, created over the last several decades of working with transgender children. Transgender children are not a new phenomenon, even though it might be new, a new discussion nationally.

CHANG: I mean, yeah, what about the timing of all of this, Wade? Like, why are all of these bills aimed at trans children happening now, specifically?

GOODWYN: Elections. You know, I mean, that definitely has some to do with this. You know, we just had the first round of primaries in Texas. You know, we've got upcoming national and state elections. It's wedge issue. This rallies conservatives. This can bring grassroots evangelicals to the polls when both the House and Senate are up for grabs. You know, when you're considering that there are 34 states that have introduced this legislation in the last three months, you got some sense of how broad this battle is.

CHANG: That is NPR's Wade Goodwyn. Thank you, Wade.

GOODWYN: It's my pleasure.

[POST-BROADCAST CLARIFICATION: In this story, the reference to the Idaho bill could have been more complete. The bill aimed to prevent both the use of a hormone medication that blocks puberty, such as a gonadotropin-releasing hormone analog, as well as the use of hormones like testosterone and estrogen that are given at a later stage to initiate sexual development.] Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: March 31, 2022 at 9:00 PM PDT
In this story, the reference to the Idaho bill could have been more complete. The bill aimed to prevent both the use of a hormone medication that blocks puberty, such as a gonadotropin-releasing hormone analog, as well as the use of hormones like testosterone and estrogen that are given at a later stage to initiate sexual development.