Last Friday, the earth shook. Well, kind of. In Texas, Democratic State Representative Shawn Thierry broke ranks with her own party in the Texas State legislature, to vote in favor of SB 14—what some people call a “ban” on healthcare for trans kids, and what Thierry called a bill to “raise the age to 18 for gender modification treatments and surgeries.”
Thierry, in fact, was not the only Democrat to vote yea, though some Dems (and one Republican) later said they accidentally voted the wrong way (the hanging chads of gender legislation).
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I saluted Thierry publicly for following her conscience—not because I’m personally gung-ho on bans, but because I understand that the only way to move from culture war to reform is to be less polarized, to wrest this issue from politics, and to make Democrats admit there are problems.
That said, there are problems with bans, too, like: What do you do about the kids already on the medical path? And: Some people don’t just want a moratorium on care, they want to criminalize the partaking of it. Some states are making transition for adults impossible, too.
Yet so far, no one has come up with a viable alternative. The medical associations—which, as I pointed out recently, are partisan advocacy groups that protect doctors’ interests, not patients’—aren’t regulating themselves. They’re not even willing to do systematic evidence reviews, as the countries that heavily regulated pediatric and adolescent gender medicine did as a first step. Government intervention is necessary, and should be based not on partisan politics, but on evidence and on cost-benefit analyses—which require us to admit and investigate the costs.
Thierry seemed pretty well-informed about the evidence and the costs, as her testimony showed.
The reactions on ye olde social media reflected that more people are understanding this issue as beyond left and right.
Joe Burgo, Vice-director Genspect, and a gay man himself, applauded Thierry. George Takei, the gay actor of Star Trek fame, called for Thierry to feel ashamed and be primaried. A trans woman backed Thierry, noting that suicidal kids shouldn’t be rushed to transition.
Of course, Texas Democrats aren’t necessarily the same as, say, New York Dems; maybe it’s less risky to cross the aisle there. And not all Texas Democrats were brave. Earlier in the week, they spiked a bill, by way of delaying it until it expired, that would require any insurance company that provides gender medical transition to provide detransition care, too. As I’ll report more next week, this was a bill conceived primarily by liberal parents of trans-identified kids, in the hopes of protecting them—not a bill crafted by anti-trans bigots. What did Democrats think was good about denying healthcare to detransitioners? Why care only about providing healthcare to young people while they’re still identifying as trans?
Some of those concerned about the gender-affirmative model object to the portrayal of Republican bills as “denying healthcare to trans kids.” They believe that, while gender nonconforming kids seem to exist in every part of the world, the “healthcare” they’re provided with here—psychological and medical transition—is what makes them trans. In many other cultures, there’s no concept of gender identity, and very little gender dysphoria—and also no gender-affirming care. It could be that meaning we make of naturally-occurring gender nonconformity, or western-onset gender dysphoria, is what creates trans kids. We don’t know that they need this “healthcare,” because for most of human history, it didn’t exist. If medical gender transition protects kids from suicide, where are the suicides from the last 10,000 years?
These are just a few of the questions we should encourage Democrats to ask. Maybe if they stop seeing “bans” as taking away healthcare, but rather a step toward providing better healthcare—if they participate in reform, rather than partisan politics—the US will be less of an outlier.
If you are one of the liberals saddened by the way your party behaves, perhaps offer Rep. Thierry a note of thanks, and write to your own representatives about what she understood, and how that changed her vote.
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Thanks, Lisa, for calling our attention to this. I sent a thank you to her and I sent versions of this to my reps:
Thank you for representing me. I am a long-time Democrat, a [county] resident, and a parent.
I am writing to share the brave, thoughtful statement by Shawn Thierry in the Texas House of Representatives, regarding SB 14. I am linking her written statement and the accompanying her video statement. Please read, and watch, and consider the arguments she offers for her position. Her statement highlights the lack of evidence behind gender-affirming care, her concerns about children's abilities to make life-long decisions, and the ways in which European countries have changed course, moving away from allowing such treatments for minors. I would be happy to share with you what I have learned in trying to understand this topic - and what concerns me.
We, in [state], should follow the lead of this brave Democrat, in order to protect the well-being of our vulnerable gender non-conforming minors from treatments that lack evidence and efficacy and that have already harmed many. I would like to see a similar bill in the [State] Senate and similar statements in defense of children's well-being on the Senate floor. I encourage you to build bridges across the aisle on behalf of our kids.
Unless democrats wake up they will lose a lot of votes.