JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Transgender teens, their parents and supporters protested outside the Mississippi Capitol on Wednesday, calling on legislators to kill a measure that would ban gender-affirming health care for people younger than 18.
House Bill 1125 passed the Republican-led House 78-30 on Jan. 19, with all opposition coming from Democrats. It awaits consideration in the Senate, which is also controlled by Republicans.
Ray Walker, a transgender boy who turns 17 on Thursday, said the bill is “truly disgusting,” especially since Mississippi has bad rankings on many healthcare statistics.
“Instead of focusing on bettering the state, politicians have decided to go after trans kids, to go after a very sensitive demographic,” Walker told The Associated Press after the protest. “We already have the highest suicide rate. It’s just disgusting that they would kick us while we’re already laying down.”
Another demonstrator, Clint Faulkner, said he is upset that legislators would try to interfere in decisions that he and his wife, Amanda, make for and with their seven children, including their transgender son, Ace.
“Mississippi, my home state, this is where we rank: 50th in health care,” Faulkner said. “But it’s way more important you tell me how to parent my trans child? … Fiftieth in health care, but we’re worried about Ace’s transitioning? Do you not think that for the last 15 years, I have watched this child grow into not a young woman but a young man?”
Mississippi is one of 27 states considering bills this year to prohibit gender-affirming health care for young people, according to Jensen Matar, executive director of the Mississippi-based Transgender Resources Advocacy Network and Services Program.
During the Jan. 19 debate in the Mississippi House, Republican Rep. Nick Bain of Corinth said he knows no examples of gender-affirming surgeries being done on people younger than 18 in the state. He also said some young people have received hormone treatments, but he did not know how many.
The bill was brought because “there is a presence and a threat” of young people receiving medical procedures for gender transition, Bain said.
Ashley Moore, who has a transgender teenager, said she is angry about the bill and terrified about what will happen to her family if it becomes law.
“Why are we trying to take away things from children that help them thrive, that help them be themselves?” Moore said. “They are courageous people, and I ask that our politicians be courageous as well and vote no on this bill that will do nothing but cause damage to our children.”
The World Professional Association for Transgender Health said last year that hormones may be started at age 14, two years earlier than the group’s previous advice, and some surgeries done at age 15 or 17, a year or so earlier than previous guidance. The group acknowledged potential risks but said it is unethical and harmful to withhold early treatment.
Walker’s mother, Katie Rives, said he refused to wear girls’ clothing starting about age 2 and came out as transgender 10 years later. He took puberty blockers and began taking testosterone a year ago, at age 16.
Walker, who has legally changed his first name, said he was depressed, had anxiety tics and “didn’t like the world” when he was 12 and 13.
Asked if he is happier now that he is taking male hormones, he smiled and said: “Absolutely.”
Follow Emily Wagster Pettus on Twitter at http://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus.