Alabama, please leave transgender kids alone.
On March 2, the Alabama State Senate voted to make providing transgender youth with puberty blockers, hormone therapy and surgery a felony. The Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act, sponsored by Sen. Shay Shelnutt, R-Blount County, was approved with a 23-4 vote by senators.
On March 19, the Alabama House of Representatives passed legislation to prohibit transgender students from competing in sports in K-12 schools.
There are other things that deserve the attention put towards passing these bills, like our rural hospitals, which are more at-risk of closure due to a drop in revenue during the pandemic. Instead of trying to legislate against transgender youth, more energy could be spent on expanding Medicaid and funding hospitals. More energy could be spent on doing what our representatives were elected to do, which is ensure the safety of all Alabamians, including transgender kids.
The Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act, which is a terrible name and a blatant lie, is headed to the House of Representatives, which has already approved a companion bill. The two bills would make it a felony for medical professionals to treat transgender minors under the age of 19 with gender-affirming care. Doctors who provide this care could face up to ten years in prison or a $15,000 fine.
The bill also requires school staff to disclose to parents that a “minor's perception that his or her gender is inconsistent with his or her sex.” Teachers would be required to out transgender students to their guardians, even if they aren’t ready to do so.
“The whole point is to protect kids,” Shelnutt said.
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Outing transgender kids is not protecting them. It's dangerous.
It's dangerous, first, to out them to their parents. In a perfect world, parents would be accepting and endlessly loving of their children, regardless of their gender identity, or other things they can't control. In reality, child abuse and neglect is currently Alabama's eighth highest health concern, according to Alabama Public Health. In this case, it would be safer to allow children who are beginning to question themselves the space to do so without the interference — or possibly abuse — of their parents.
If there is such a concern for the well-being of children, where is the concern for their mental health as they face potential retaliation from those they're meant to trust the most, before some of them would even understand what they are feeling?
Transgender youth are already often ostracized or bullied in school, and the bill will take away an adult for them to safely vent their feelings to, in a place they spend eight hours a day in, five days a week. To ban transgender kids from even participating in sports after cutting off any gender-affirming support they may have is cruel.
These bills will not be protecting kids. These bills will kill them.
Nox Newton, who said they strongly oppose the bills, said that the Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act will do a lot of harm.
“You’ve probably heard that suicide and depression rates among trans people are higher,” Newton said. “That’s not because they’re trans. That’s because of situations where parents are unsupportive or where they’re outed in a situation where it’s not safe for them to be outed or where they have to pretend to be someone they aren’t because people aren’t accepting of them.”
Newton put it best when they later said that anyone who supports this, knowing that people are going to die for this, are going to have blood on their hands.
Ultimately, they are kids.
During the debate on the bill, Shelnutt said that he has never spoken to transgender youth before, and that he did not know that such treatments were being done in the state when he introduced the bill in 2020.
Shelnutt also told The Associated Press that children aren’t mature enough to make decisions on surgeries and drugs, but gender-affirming surgeries were already not being performed in Alabama, according to the Alabama Political Reporter. Medical professionals also pointed to research that shows that hormone blockers and other medications commonly prescribed to young transgender people are reversible and have no permanent consequences.
What a child that you will never have any contact with does, what their parents choose to do if they to support them in their journey, their doctors or teachers has nothing to do with lawmakers. It will never have anything to do with lawmakers. This legislation is not responding to a need, but it's ignoring plenty. Shelnutt and those who support this bill are making a show of being the guardians of children's safety, but passing this will have real, possibly deadly, consequences.
There are other things that need to be done, rather than destroying children. Leave them alone.
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