SADOW: Lawmakers Must Pick Protecting Kids Over Harming Them

Louisiana legislators have a clear choice between two bills this session: one that protects children from potential irreversible harm and another that invites it.

The pro-children bill comes in the form of HB 570 by Republican state Rep. Gabe Firment. It would ban physical medical interventions to alter the sex of a minor child except where an identifiable physical disorder exists.

Research solidly endorses this view, which specialists term a wait and watch strategy as opposed to the more recent trend of immediate intervention of children even just a few years old. This is warranted because adolescents and earlier, being adolescents/earlier and emotionally immature, often can’t process their feelings well and are swayed unusually by fad and fashion, so they may change their minds on whether they think they ought to feel and behave as a particular sex. It’s difficult to ascertain a precise proportion of children who at one point feel they should have a different sex and subsequently change their minds because of the nature of the subjects studied, the subjectivity involved in measuring such a nebulous concept, and in the political interpretations and biases many researchers insert into their explanation, but perhaps the best baseline comes from Dutch practitioners who pioneered techniques to cause physical changes in youth from one sex to another, who estimate 63 percent of youth over time eventually change their minds.

Even if not that high, the amount obviously isn’t trivial. And no study ever has suggested otherwise.

With no real way, despite many research attempts, to determine the factors that predict a long-term desire into adulthood of a desire to alter sexuality physically, prudence validates the wait and watch strategy, which Firment’s bill endorses. Adding to that, research indicates that sexual identity and attraction undergo extensive and often subtle changes throughout a person’s life, continuing long past adolescence and into adulthood, so to go all in on physical interventions at one point in time well prior to full physical and emotional maturation ironically violates what transgender advocates argue that sexual identity, regardless of its physical anchor, shouldn’t be bound to two poles that medical procedures would implant. On this, discretion is the better part of valor, and Firment’s bill provides that.

Part of the process in grafting a mental identity onto physical reality may involve counseling. This assistance may occur organically from relationships with family and faith communities. But valuable input also can come from health care practitioners, and prohibiting that and extensions from it make Democrat state Rep. Mandie Landry’s HB 605 an anti-children bill in urgent need of defeat.

That would prohibit these kinds of attempts. Certainly, the mixed results presented by reparative therapy that can cause psychological distress and extreme attempts that could be called mental health abuse should bring pause towards its use. But Landry’s bill goes way too far that would, for example, bar government funding of Catholic orders who provide health care services if they would have any non-clergy counsel children about their identity crises. It removes a compassionate and responsible treatment option for children with genuine cases of gender dysphoria, or unease that a person may feel because of a mismatch between their biological sex and their believed gender identity.

Administrative law can circumscribe the worst practices of this kind of counseling from providers that accept public dollars without giving carte blanche to the trendy notion that practitioners necessarily must adhere to affirmation of a child’s thinking about self at present, which can lead to the abusive interventions that Firment’s bill would halt. His bill is based on science, while Landry’s rests on ideology, so it’s clear that thoughtful legislators should champion the former and dismiss the latter.

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