Demonstrators supporting trans children and gender affirmation treatments rally outside of Boston Children's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, on September 18, 2022.

Demonstrators supporting trans children and gender affirmation treatments rally outside of Boston Children's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, on September 18, 2022.

(Photo: Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images)

Tennessee, Mississippi GOP Move to Ban 'Lifesaving' Healthcare for Trans Youth

"Legislators are risking trans young people's health, well-being, and safety with this dangerous legislation," said an ACLU of Tennessee staff attorney, urging the governor to veto the bill.

In moves that alarmed advocates for transgender youth, the Tennessee and Mississippi GOP-dominated legislatures this week sent bills banning gender-affirming care for minors to their Republican governors' desks.

Even though organizations including the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association, and American Psychiatric Association support gender-affirming care for young people, GOP state lawmakers nationwide have recently introduced bills intended to restrict or outlaw it.

The Tennessee House of Representatives on Thursday voted 77-16 on House Bill 1, with three Democrats joining Republicans to pass the measure, which the state Senate passed 26-6 last week.

Under H.B. 1, doctors could not provide healthcare such as hormone therapies, puberty blockers, or surgical procedures to trans minors, with limited exceptions for care that began before the bill would take effect on July 1. Those who violate the pending law could face a state attorney general probe and a $25,000 fine.

"We know from the research that access to transgender-related healthcare is critical to the physical and mental health of transgender people and their ability to thrive in their daily lives," said Emma Chinn co-author of LGBTQ+ Tennesseans, special projects coordinator at the Campaign for Southern Equality, and a master of public policy candidate at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

"As a Tennessean, I feel furious that my state is taking steps to make life more challenging for transgender young people," Chinn added. "I am more committed than ever to finding ways to support families and center the powerful voices of young people in the months ahead."

As The Tennessean reported Thursday:

The bill will soon be sent to Gov. Bill Lee's desk, which kicks off a 10-day countdown, not including Sundays, for Lee to sign it into law. Even if Lee chooses not to sign, the bill becomes law without his signature unless he vetoes it.

Though he rarely takes an explicit position on pending bills, Lee on Friday signaled he is "supportive" of the bill's content.

ACLU of Tennessee staff attorney Lucas Cameron-Vaughn promised a court fight if the GOP governor does not veto the bill.

"We are deeply disturbed that state politicians have voted to interfere with the ability of families to make decisions, in consultation with medical professionals, to provide critical care for young people who are transgender," Cameron-Vaughn said. "All Tennesseans should have access to the healthcare they need to survive and thrive."

"Gender-affirming healthcare for trans youth is safe, necessary, effective, and often lifesaving," the lawyer stressed. "Legislators are risking trans young people’s health, well-being, and safety with this dangerous legislation. We urge Gov. Lee to veto this overreaching, discriminatory bill, or we will see him in court."

"We urge Gov. Lee to veto this overreaching, discriminatory bill, or we will see him in court."

Cameron-Vaughn's colleague McKenna Raney-Gray, LGBTQ Justice Project staff attorney at the ACLU of Mississippi, delivered a similar message about House Bill 1125 to GOP Gov. Tate Reeves earlier this week.

After the Mississippi House of Representatives last month passed that bill 78-30, with four Democrats joining Republicans, the state Senate on Tuesday approved it 33-15, voting along party lines.

"This is a devastating development for transgender youth in Mississippi and heartbreaking for all of us who love and support them," said the ACLU's Raney-Gray. "This care was already too difficult to access across the state for transgender people of any age, but this law shuts the door on best-practice medical care and puts politics between parents, their children, and their doctors."

In a letter to Reeves, Raney-Gray wrote that "if enacted, this legislation will deny children lifesaving, medically necessary healthcare and violate the constitutional rights of Mississippians," and urged him to veto the ban.

However, Reeves vowed to sign the legislation, tweeting Tuesday that "sterilizing and castrating children in the name of new gender ideology is wrong. That plain truth is somehow controversial in today's world. I called for us to stop these sick experimental treatments, and I look forward to getting the bill."

Mickie Stratos, president of the Spectrum Center of Hattiesburg, emphasized that "Mississippi legislators are positioning H.B. 1125 as a measure to protect kids, when the reality is that this bill will do the exact opposite. Access to gender-affirming medical care is a top indicator of healthy and positive outcomes for trans people."

"To criminalize that care is a direct assault on the physical, emotional, and mental health of trans youth, and we will see negative outcomes for our trans youth and their families in [Mississippi] as a result," they warned. "Regardless of the outcome of this legislation, we will remain here in Mississippi to support, affirm, love, and care for the trans folks and their families impacted by this attack."

Ivy Hill, director of gender justice for the Campaign for Southern Equality, said that "this bill—and an overwhelming wave of similar legislation moving quickly in states across the country—is cruelly targeting transgender youth and their doctors. To every trans young person who feels attacked, marginalized, or fearful for the future: Please know that you are loved, you are supported, and there is queer community across the state and nationwide who care about you and are joining with you in solidarity."

As part of that wave, GOP Utah Gov. Spencer Cox signed into law a ban on gender-affirming care for youth last month, and Republican South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem signed another last week.

While similar bills have advanced in Nebraska and Oklahoma, "a federal judge who blocked Arkansas' ban on gender-affirming care for minors is now considering whether to strike down the law as unconstitutional," The Associated Pressreported Thursday. "A similar ban in Alabama has also been temporarily blocked by a federal judge."

This post has been updated with comment from Emma Chinn.

Join the Movement: Become Part of the Solution Today

We're optimists who believe in the power of informed and engaged citizens to ignite and enact change to make the world a better place.

We're hundreds of thousands strong, but every single supporter counts.

Your contribution supports this new media model—free, independent, and dedicated to uncovering the truth. Stand with us in the fight for social justice, human rights, and equality. As a people-powered nonprofit news outlet, we cover the issues the corporate media never will. Join with us today!

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.