Gender-affirming care for anyone under 18 is now banned in South Dakota, forcing trans kids to detransition without medical help.
Last week, South Dakota’s very red state senate passed House Bill 1080, which bans any gender-affirming care, including puberty blockers, hormones, surgery, or supportive therapy, for anyone under the age of 18, even with parental approval. It allows a short grace period for doctors who treat transgender or intersex youth to wind-down any ongoing gender-affirming care. It was signed into law by Governor Kristi Noem on Monday.
“South Dakota’s kids are our future. With this legislation, we are protecting kids from harmful, permanent medical procedures,” Noem said in a statement.
There’s no science behind her statement. In fact, medical bodies all agree that gender-affirming care for minors is a net benefit for their mental and physical health. And forcing transgender youth to detransition – stopping hormones, puberty blockers, and therapy and then denying them medical coverage for the resulting issues – as this bill will do, is going to do much more harm.
Studies show that trans people of all ages but particularly minors are more likely to experience mental health struggles than cisgender people, unless they are allowed to transition, and that the younger they transition the better their long-term results. One in four transgender people who struggle with access to gender-affirming care attempt to commit suicide.
South Dakota’s ban also narrowly defines ‘sex’ biologically, relying on genitals and sex chromosomes, meaning this bill lacks any consideration for the approximately 1 in every 1000 infants who are born intersex, not conforming full as either male or female.
And even if the science weren’t wrong, the law would still be bad. Casey Pick, director of law and policy for the Trevor Project, put it well: “Even in the face of professional guidance from every major medical and mental health association in the country that supports this type of care, politicians are intruding into the private medical decisions best left to transgender young people and their families.”
It’s worth noting, as several states rush to pass similar bills, that no law in the nation forbids a 13-year-old girl from getting breast implants and a nose job, unless she’s doing so to present as her own gender.
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