South Carolina may ban antidepressants and hormones for trans kids

Lawmakers in South Carolina want to make it illegal for doctors to operate on or prescribe hormones and possibly even antidepressants to transgender children and teenagers, according to a bill proposed last week. 

If signed into law, the bill would make any medical efforts toward gender reassignment impossible for anyone under 18. 

The legislation even aims to outlaw drugs to treat ‘symptoms of clinically significant distress resulting from gender dysphoria,’ including depression or anxiety that arise from being assigned a gender at birth that doesn’t match a young person’s identity. 

State Representative Stewart Jones told the Post and Courier the bill is to ‘protect children’ like a seven-year-old in Texas whose gender reassignment surgery is now being delayed by a court battle over her father’s objections. 

But the bill flies in the face of pediatricians’ groups recommendations that supporting gender affirmation may help reduce the staggering suicide rate among transgender youth. 

Lawmakers in South Carolina want to make it illegal for doctors in the state to help transgender youth affirm their identities or to prescribe them antidepressants to help them cope with gender dysphoria. Pictured: a protester in New York wears the trans pride flag (file) 

Transgender youth and teenagers are an exceedingly small population at the center of growing tensions in the medical and political spheres. 

Less than one percent of Americans between the ages of 13 and 17 identify as transgender. 

But a University of Washington study of hundreds of children, published last week, found that trans kids know who they are just as clearly and just as early as their cisgender peers do. 

That study found that these children’s clear senses of identities are not really reliant on whether they’ve transitioned or not.  

Instead it found that kids ‘develop a strong sense of identity at an early age, that this identity is not necessarily determined by sex assigned at birth, and that children may hold onto this identity even when it conflicts with others’ expectations.’ 

Children who identified as trans in that study, however, had transitioned ‘socially,’ meaning they identified by pronouns that matched their gender identity rather than the one assigned to them at birth and styled themselves in ways that affirmed their gender identities as well.  

Still, the American Academy Pediatrics (AAP), in its first ever guidance about transgender children, recommended a ‘gender-affirming’ approach to these children’s health care.  

These recommendations could be life-saving, as the AAP suggested that gender-affirming practices are the best practice to cut the extraordinarily high rate of 56 percent of trans youth who report suicidal thoughts and 31 percent who report previous suicide attempts – staggering numbers among a group that accounts for just 0.7 percent of American youths. 

But not all American parents, lawmakers or courts see eye-to-eye with the AAP.  

In recent months a fraught court battle has broken out in Texas between the mother of a seven-year-old trans girl named Luna Younger, whose mother supports her transition but whose father opposes her desire to wear her hair long and use the pronoun ‘she.’  

Neither Luna nor her mother seem to have made moves toward a medical transition for the little girl, according to Vox.  

But the case has raised questions about legislating and regulating gender nonetheless. 

South Carolina Representative Jones and the bill he proposed suggest concerns that parents may push their children into transition, rather than worry they will stand in the way of transition. 

The Youth Gender Reassignment Prevention Act is designed to keep children from ‘being pressured or bullied in any kind of circumstance to have their gender reassigned,’ Jones told the Post and Courier. 

‘[Reassignment has] almost been weaponized, and this is to protect children.’ 

Jones and bill he’s sponsoring don’t address transition for adults, but he compared reassignment to buying cigarettes and alcohol – acts only legal for adults. 

The bill specifies that doctors could have their licenses suspended or revoked if they interfere with a young person’s sexual development or alter their physical appearances – which would be the effect of prescribing hormones or performing surgeries. 

Although mental health counselling would be permitted, the bill would outlaw medicinal treatment of symptoms of ‘distress’ from gender dysphoria, meaning some children and teens could be blocked from getting antidepressants.