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Indiana Senate panel approves measure to block gender-affirming care for minors

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Transgender youth, adults, and their families told lawmakers on Wednesday a bill they approved would cost lives.

The Senate Health and Provider Services Committee approved a bill to prohibit doctors from providing any kind of gender-affirming medical treatment, including hormone therapy, puberty blockers, and surgery to transgender people under the age of 18. It’s part of a wave of similar legislation nationwide and comes two days after a House committee approved a bill to require teachers to report to parents any student who wishes to change their pronouns.

It’s the sort of legislation 17-year-old Leo Ryan said would impair his ability to lead a healthy, happy life. Ryan, who is transgender, said he began hormone treatment two years ago and started his social transition, which involves changes in outward appearance and pronoun usage, two years before that. He said being able to access that care now means he is less introverted and more confident than he was before he began his transition.

“You don’t go to Kroger and get testosterone over the counter,” he says. “The decision to medically transition is not taken lightly.”

According to the Indiana Youth Institute, roughly 43,000 youth ages 13 to 17 in Indiana identify as LGBTQ, including about 3,350 transgender youths.

The bill’s supporters contend it will prevent young people from being subjected to irreversible harm. Luka Hein told the panel she identified as a transgender man at one point and had a number of surgical procedures done after age 18, a period that would not be affected by the bill. She said her status as a minor with multiple mental health issues prevented her from controlling what was happening to her.

“I live with constant joint pain to the point that it is so bad that I have not been able to get out of bed to go to class some days,” she says.

Hein and other supporters of the bill focused extensively on the issue of de-transitioning. Data from the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality, found 8 percent of transgender people stop gender transitioning treatment at some point in their lives, usually temporarily. That group typically cites outside pressure, such as from parents or employers, as their reason for doing so. Five percent of de-transitioning people, or 0.4 percent of the overall transgender population, does so because they conclude transitioning is not right for them.

That same survey found 82 percent of transgender people contemplate suicide at some point in their lives and 40 percent attempt it. 20-year-old Noah Cash said he very nearly joined that latter statistic. He said he began questioning his gender when he was 7 and very likely would have taken his own life had he not been able to get the care and counseling he needed.

“I have been the 45 seconds,” he says, referring to the estimated interval between suicides among transgender people nationwide.

The committee advanced the bill on a 9-3 vote, with Sen. Vaneta Becker, R-Evansville, joining the two Democrats present in voting against the bill. Additionally, Sen. Mike Bohacek, R-Michiana Shores, voted in favor of the bill to keep it moving but said he had serious concerns about the bill’s restrictions on nonsurgical treatment such as puberty blockers.

The bill now heads to the full Senate. Legislation has until Tuesday to pass out of the full Senate to remain under consideration for this session.

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