The Alabama House Health Committee on Wednesday heard from both supports and opponents of a bill that would ban physicians from treating transgender minors.
Senate Bill 10, sponsored by Sen. Shay Shelnutt, R-Trussville, would prohibit puberty-blocking hormone therapies for minors and require school counselors to report a child’s expressions of gender dysphoria to their parents.
The bill also bans gender-affirmation surgeries or sex-reassignment surgeries on children, although physicians who treat transgender minors have told Alabama lawmakers at previous hearings that such procedures are not performed on minors, and that doing so would be considered medical malpractice.
The Alabama Senate in a party-line vote on March 2 passed Shelnutt’s bill, sending it to the House for approval.
Rep. Wes Allen, R-Troy, who introduced the House version of the bill, told committee members Wednesday that the bill aims to protect vulnerable children.
“These drugs are very, very powerful,” Allen said. “We believe we need to protect children.”
Sgt. David Fuller with the Gadsden Police Department told members that he is the father of a transgender daughter, and that five years ago, when his daughter confided in him, he began researching and learned that close to half of transgender youth attempt suicide.
“What was I going to do?” Fuller said, adding that through his research he learned that children who have supportive families and friends, and decent medical care, attempt suicide at rates just more than others their age.
Eventually, the family received care from UAB Hospital, where Fuller said “things changed for the better.”
“They gave us hope that we just weren’t going to get care. We were told that we’re not alone,” Fuller said. “There are other families like this.”
“I made sure when we first started that it was reversible. There was no talk of any kind of operations,” Fuller said, adding that after five years, the family is still slowly going through this process.
“If you take this healthcare away, my kid is dead,” Fuller said. “You say you want to take care of these kids, then you want to make the doctors criminals. I’m a police officer. You’re asking me to arrest the folks that I know saved my kid’s life.”
Fuller explained that five years ago, when he didn’t fully understand what being transgender meant, if he were in the committee members’ positions, he’d have made the wrong decisions himself.
“I’m ashamed to say it, but I would have. But today, please understand, this is real. Without this healthcare, my daughter’s not here today,” Fuller said.
Dr. Den Trumbull, a Montgomery pediatrician, spoke in support of the bill. Trumbull said children fair better in their development if “their innate biological sex is confirmed and affirmed by parents and authority figures in their life.”
“It’s not uncommon for adolescents to experience temporary periods of sexual confusion, where they feel insecure with themselves and their sexuality,” Trumbull said, adding that minors don’t have the cognitive maturity to make life-changing decisions.
Dr. Morissa Ladinsky, a Birmingham pediatrician who has treated transgender minors, said while Shelnutt has said he’s never spoken to a transgender minor, Ladinsky said she has spoken to plenty.
“They’re ordinary, loving, regular kids,” Ladinsky said, adding that transgender children aren’t mentally ill and “they did not choose to be this way.”
Ladinsky also pushed back on the notion that physicians are conducting surgery on transgender minors.
“Genital surgery is never performed on minors in Alabama. That’s a fact,” Ladinsky said.
Allen said there would be two amendments to the Senate bill, one of which would deal with concerns some had with respect to how male circumcisions might be impacted by the legislation.
The other amendment mirrors one in the approved House version of the bill that removed the bill’s ban on allowing psychologists from providing counseling to transgendered minors, in accordance with their training.
The Senate bill is to come back before the House Health Committee for a vote next week. If approved, it would head to the full House for a vote.