Ray Carter | February 28, 2023
House votes to ban sex-change surgeries for children
Children could not be subjected to sex-reassignment surgeries, puberty blockers, or cross-sex hormones as a treatment for gender dysphoria under legislation that has received overwhelming support in the Oklahoma House of Representatives.
“Denying the truth that we are either male or female hurts real people, especially vulnerable children,” said state Rep. Kevin West, R-Moore. “Science and common sense tells us that children are not mature enough to properly evaluate the serious, lifelong ramifications when making important medical decisions. This bill will allow these children an opportunity to grow and realize who they are before receiving life-altering procedures.”
House Bill 2177, by West and state Rep. Jim Olsen, states that a physician or other health care professional may not “knowingly engage in or cause” anyone younger than 18 to receive puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, or sex-reassignment surgeries “for the purpose of attempting to alter the appearance of or affirm the minor’s perception of his or her gender or biological sex.”
The bill also prohibits state taxpayer funding from being used to pay for individuals to receive sex-reassignment procedures or for insurance plans to pay for those procedures for any age group.
Olsen, R-Roland, noted the side effects of puberty blockers include sexual dysfunction, infertility, and disruption of normal brain and bone development. Cross-sex hormones are associated with increased risk of heart attack, stroke, gall stones, liver dysfunction, brain cancer, and Type II diabetes.
“The great majority of young people resolve gender dysphoria without medical intervention,” Olsen said. “Those that undergo gender reassignment face a myriad of health risks later in life, and some will regret their decision. Those that regret their decision cannot go back to what they were, and they cannot become what they wanted to be. You cannot change your gender. Delusional play-acting will not suffice in the long run. But then having been on hormones for a number of years, you cannot go back. It’s a terrible position to be in.”
State Rep. Randy Randleman, a Eufaula Republican who is a licensed psychologist, said surgery or hormone treatments typically fail to address the root cause of a child’s gender dysphoria and that mental-health therapies are far more beneficial.
“There are therapies,” Randleman said. “Myself, I probably see over 200 kids a year. And we do different types of therapy.”
State Rep. Justin Humphrey, R-Lane, noted that when Johns Hopkins University conducted a long-term review of outcomes for individuals who obtained sex-reassignment procedures, the university found those patients had a 20 percent higher rate of suicide than control groups after getting the surgery. Research has also shown 80 percent of children who experience gender dysphoria outgrow it by adulthood.
In his work in the corrections field, Humphrey said he dealt with many individuals who were mentally ill.
“I have dealt with the mentally ill—lots of people who are mentally ill,” Humphrey said. “If they think they’re Superman, you don’t take them to the top of the building and say, ‘Jump off and fly.’ That’s called ‘affirming’ or ‘approving.’ You do not do that. You try to help people with gender dysphoria. You don’t ‘approve’ their illness.”
“Delusional play-acting will not suffice in the long run.” —Rep. Jim Olsen
Opponents of HB 2177 dismissed the medical research cited by supporters.
“This will kill kids,” said state Rep. Melissa Provenzano, D-Tulsa.
“Cultural-war bills like this is what happens when we allow theocrats to legislate their religious morality upon all Oklahomans,” said state Rep. Mickey Dollens, D-Oklahoma City, who added that supporters of the bill want to “perpetuate their hate and morality police state.”
Supporters of the bill also noted that medical officials in both Sweden and England have recently altered guidelines to restrict provision of sex-reassignment procedures to underage patients. A review conducted by Do No Harm, a medical advocacy group, found that most European countries currently restrict use of cross-sex hormones on underage patients, and that sex-reassignment surgeries are not allowed until age 18 in many of those countries, including Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
Dollens dismissed the advice of medical officials in those countries, saying “there’s right-wing extreme movements happening across the world where they’re trying to silence and make certain vulnerable groups not exist.”
State Rep. Jacob Rosencrants, D-Norman, who has said his child is transgender, said supporters were running the bill “to fearmonger to your base” and said transgender individuals feel “trapped in a state where it’s obvious people do not want you. It’s a living nightmare. Your very existence is vilified.”
State Rep. Jared Deck, D-Norman, suggested people will “exit the state” if HB 2177 becomes law in such large numbers that the exodus will exacerbate workforce shortages.
“We have a massive workforce shortage,” Deck said. “What are Oklahoma businesses supposed to do as workers continue to leave our state because of legislation like this?”
State Rep. Amanda Swope, D-Tulsa, decried one portion of the bill as a “state-sanctioned dress code.”
State Rep. Mauree Turner, D-Oklahoma City, said science disproves the idea that there are two sexes.
“It is, honestly, the thing that tells us that things don’t actually operate on a binary, if science is the route that you want to go,” Tuner said. “If religion is the route that you want to go, nothing about how this world was created or works happens on a binary. We get the sun and the moon and everything that happens in between that, and because of that it cannot be limited to a binary.”
West noted some parents of transgender children have told him medical officials pressured them to authorize cross-sex hormone treatments or surgeries by claiming their child would commit suicide otherwise. In some instances, he said parents reported that medical officials met separately with a child and encouraged the youth to pursue cross-sex hormones or other procedures prior to meeting with the parents.
“When we talk to people at risk of suicide, an often-repeated truism is ‘don’t choose a permanent solution for a temporary problem,’” West said. “Then adults who should be trusted with the care of these vulnerable children have turned around and given them this very permanent line of treatment—this before most laws allow them to purchase tobacco or alcohol or even rent a car.”
State Rep. Mark Tedford, R-Tulsa, also noted officials have used the threat of suicide to promote sex-reassignment efforts for youth.
“The science of transgenderism is more driven by the fear that those suffering from gender dysphoria will harm themselves rather than the scientific data,” Tedford said.
Opponents of the bill pointed to several medical associations that have endorsed cross-sex hormones and sex-reassignment surgeries for youth. But Olsen noted those organizations seldom have any credible studies to back up their position statements.
“A position statement by a medical association is distinct from an actual study,” Olsen said.
He noted the American Academy of Pediatrics has supported transgender procedures based on “a single, non-peer-reviewed policy statement published in their own journal in 2018” that has been criticized as shoddy work.
West noted some of medical organizations that endorse sex-reassignment for children, such as the American Medical Association, represent a very small share of doctors nationwide, while other groups, such as the American College of Pediatrics, have cautioned against sex-reassignment measures for those younger than 18.
A recent national poll by Rassmussen Reports found 58 percent of likely U.S. voters approve of legislation making it illegal to perform sex-change surgery on minors, including 46 percent who strongly approve of such laws. Just 34 percent disapprove.
HB 2177 passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives on an 80-18 vote. The bill now proceeds to the Oklahoma Senate, which has already passed similar legislation.
Director, Center for Independent Journalism
Ray Carter is the director of OCPA’s Center for Independent Journalism. He has two decades of experience in journalism and communications. He previously served as senior Capitol reporter for The Journal Record, media director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman. As a reporter for The Journal Record, Carter received 12 Carl Rogan Awards in four years—including awards for investigative reporting, general news reporting, feature writing, spot news reporting, business reporting, and sports reporting. While at The Oklahoman, he was the recipient of several awards, including first place in the editorial writing category of the Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives Carl Rogan Memorial News Excellence Competition for an editorial on the history of racism in the Oklahoma legislature.