As Republican-led states pass legislation to restrict or ban transgender youth from accessing gender-affirming healthcare, Republicans in Congress have held a series of hearings or steered discussion around implementing national bans while raising dubious claims and dismissing guidance from major medical groups.
On 27 July, Democratic members of a Republican-led House committee condemned the latest “cynical and dangerous attack” on trans children and their families during one of the first congressional hearings against affirming care and health providers.
The panel heard from a former college athlete who advocates against trans women and girls from participating in sports that match their gender, members of right-wing special interest groups that support legislation targeting LGBT+ people, and a person who formerly received affirming healthcare and now advocates against other receiving it.
The committee also heard from a Texas mother whose 18-year-old son is transgender, as well as the trangender legal director of a prominent LGBT+ legal advocacy group.
While Republican US Rep Matt Gaetz was railing against a law in Washington state that seeks to protect trans children estranged from their parents, a person watching the hearing from inside the chamber called the Florida congressman a “murderer”.
“Oh please, get over yourself,” Mr Gaetz responded.
Moments earlier, Republican US Rep Wesley Hunt used a poster of a food pyramid to compare children with gender dysphoria to children who want to eat ice cream for every meal.
“What if we affirmed every thought our children had?” he said.
Democratic US Rep Mary Gay Scanlon called the hearing a “cynical and dangerous attack on trans people and their families” motivated not by medical guidance but poll numbers, with Republican members “just repeating right-wing talking points to delegitimize” healthcare for trans youth, she said.
“Today’s hearing is an all-time low for the Republican majority,” said Democratic US Rep Jerry Nadler. “In my three decades in Congress, I have taken part in plenty of hearings where I did not agree with the choice of topic, to say the least. I am absolutely disgusted at the Republican majority’s bullying, bigoted framing of an issue that would otherwise be worthy of serious discussion.”
The New York congressman was furious, calling the hearing a “taxpayer-funded platform for congressional Republicans to bully transgender kids, who are already some of the most vulnerable members of our community”.
“The last thing trans kids and their parents need in their lives is Republicans in Washington to jump on the anti-trans bandwagon just so they can fear monger for their five minutes of fame,” he added.
The hearing – titled “Dangers and Due Process Violations of ‘Gender-Affirming Care’ for Children” – follows proposals from House lawmakers to strip support for affirming care for US military service members in a must-pass national defence bill, as well as a series of hearings and proposals that replicate the avalanche of legislation targeting trans people in nearly every state.
By the end of May, state lawmakers had introduced more than 500 bills impacting LGBT+ people in 2023, including 220 bills specifically targeting trans and nonbinary Americans, according to an analysis from the Human Rights Campaign.
Republican members of Congress have also introduced federal legislation that mirrors some of the proposals dominating state capitols.
One measure would impose national restrictions on trans athletes, and another bill would impose a similar but more-expansive version of what critics have called state-level “Don’t Say Gay” bills used to restrict classroom discussion of LGBT+ people and events.
Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the only trans person who addressed lawmakers, said in his opening statement that anti-trans legislation targets less than 1 per cent of the population as well as medication and supportive care regimens that have been widely available for decades.
“They are not new. What is new is this recent massive overreach from state lawmakers,” he added. “These laws … they prevent doctors from doing their jobs, they prevent parents from getting medical care they need.”
Stripping access to that care will have “devastating consequences for young people’s lives,” he said. “Decisions should be made by parents who love them, not by politicians who know nothing about a child’s life.”
Miriam Reynolds, whose son Cameron is trans, shared the family’s journey to understanding what he was experiencing and working with health providers to
“It was hard on me at first, but I was able to put my child’s needs before my feelings and find him the care he needed,” she said. “I could see that my child was happier and felt more and more comfortable the more he was affirmed.”
There wasn’t any political “hysteria” surrounding his care when he came out several years ago, compared to the currently volatile environment surrounding his existence and the family’s support for him.
“It’s absolutely heartbreaking,” she said. “To be looked at as a child abuser, or indoctrinator, or something like that, is extremely painful … It feels very hateful and divisive.”
Mr Gaetz grilled Mr Minter about recently enacted Washington state law that allows shelters to first contact the state Department of Children, Youth and Families if trans children entering the facilities.
“There’s no reason to treat these situations with transgender young people who may be in danger or at risk of abuse at home, any differently than we would treat any other child,” Mr Minter said. “I want authorities to treat these kids with the same care they treat all other children.”
In his remarks, Mr Gaetz ironically defended the rights of “parents to parent” their children while dismissing families who have asked for the same right to support their trans children.
“What’s terrible is when you have this incongruent desire of the government to restrain the abilities of parents to parent,” he said.
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