HB 658: Punishing Trans Kids

By Carmen Linero-Lopez

Ohio State Representatives have proposed legislation that would bar a parent’s refusal to let a child receive gender-based treatment as a basis for a parent to lose custody of that child (minors under 18).

Let’s unpack that.

  1. Gender-based treatment: when someone comes out as transgender, they have options to affirm their gender identity through hormone therapy, surgery, counseling, educational materials, and more.

  2. Studies show that when parents allow their kids to utilize these forms of gender-based treatment, the child’s quality of life improves and their mental health benefits. Failure to approve of a child’s gender identity and/or expression has been shown to cause depression and mental illness and plays a role in the extremely high suicide rates for transgender youth.

  3. This legislation has been introduced because of a case in which parents lost custody of their transgender son after he attempted suicide because they did not accept his identity and refused to let him undergo gender-based treatment. This bill would make it so that there would be no repercussions for a parent who denies their child gender-based treatment.

  4. The bill is designed to make intervention impossible when parents are rejecting the identity of their trans child. It says that parents have the right to withhold consent for any treatment of gender dysphoria and that parents have the absolute right to decide what’s best for their child when it comes to any form of gender-based treatment. It also states that if a child shows any signs of being trans that a school must contact both parents. If they do not report it or prescribe treatment without the written consent of both parents, they will have committed a felony.

As I try and offer the facts, I’m finding it increasingly hard to not get emotional thinking about the implications this bill could have on trans youth. Suicide disproportionately affects LGBTQ+ youth in the U.S. – youth who are often not supported by their family and friends, causing them to feel isolated and wrong in their own bodies. A parent’s support in this situation can literally be the difference between life and death, and a parent’s refusal to allow transitioning materials leaves lasting negative impact and trauma on trans youth as they grow up.

One of the problems with this bill is that it takes away the autonomy of a trans kid’s mind and body. ThinkProgress has described it as a “license to abuse” bill that would “block transgender kids from accessing the care they need” by putting the decision in the hands of parents. The representatives that have introduced this bill assume that kids will live long enough to reach legal autonomy over their own bodies. More and more trans kids are coming out at younger and younger ages and subsequently, are able to receive treatment to affirm their identities at younger ages. And while some trans kids may be able to access these treatments, there are still so many that cannot, and we have to fight twice as hard for the transgender youth stuck in households and states where it has been deemed legal to have parents abuse their children based on the child’s gender identity.

Right now, this bill is in very early stages of the legislative process: there is a very real possibility that it will never see the light of day. But don’t let that fact make you complacent –  if this bill (or one like it) passes, it sends a message throughout the country that legislation stripping away the autonomy of transgender kids is okay.

So what can you do?

Call the members of the Community and Family Advancement committee, the committee currently holding hearings on HB 658, and let them know HB 658 hurts kids.

Timothy E. Ginter (Chair): Phone (614) 466-8022
Sarah LaTourette (Vice Chair): Phone (614) 644-5088
Janine R. Boyd (Ranking Member): Phone (614) 644-5079 

This bill could very easily die in committee if the Chairs think that the public does not want it. Let’s let them know that we will not tolerate anti-trans legislation like HB 658.

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