A participant holds a sign supporting transgender rights at a march

A participant holds a sign supporting transgender rights at a march in New York City on June 23, 2017.

(Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Utah GOP Excludes Cisgender Teen Breast Implants From Gender-Affirming Care Ban

"This is not about protecting kids," said one advocate. "It's about policing transness."

A Democrat's proposed amendment to one of the latest anti-transgender rights bills exposed that Republicans' efforts to prohibit LGBTQ+ minors from accessing gender-affirming healthcare "is not about protecting kids," one advocate said Thursday.

In Utah on Wednesday, state Senate Minority Leader Luz Escamilla (D-1) proposed an amendment to Senate Bill 16, which would ban gender-affirming surgeries for minors and place a moratorium on medical professionals providing puberty blockers, citing concerns about equal opportunity protections.

If Republicans such as state Sen. Michael Kennedy (R-14), who sponsored S.B. 16, are as concerned as they say they are about ensuring minors don't have surgeries when they may not fully understand the long-term ramifications, Escamilla argued that cisgender teenagers should also be blocked from participating in Utah's plastic surgery boom.

"If we're going to target kids and the ability for their parents to make decisions with their providers, then all children should be included."

The state ranks second in the nation in per-capita plastic surgeons, and one surgeon estimated in 2005 that teenagers accounted for about 15% of his patients. A number of plastic surgery clinics in the state advertise services for teenagers.

"We happen to live in a state that loves plastic surgeries," said Escamilla in a committee hearing on S.B. 16, "and I think we should have an equal opportunity to make sure that no child will ever have access to plastic surgery. If we're going to target kids and the ability for their parents to make decisions with their providers, then all children should be included and [we should] not be targeting a specific group of kids."

Kennedy said he personally did not support plastic surgery such as breast augmentation for teenagers and denied the practice is prevalent in Utah, but said, "If that has been done it's likely to have been done for decades and decades and decades in this state," suggesting it should be allowed to continue for that reason.

As researchers at Boston Children's Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine wrote in a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in November, puberty blockers have also "been used safely for decades in children with precocious puberty and endometriosis among other medical indications" and are now endorsed by numerous medical organizations "for youth with gender dysphoria," but those facts haven't stopped Kennedy and other Republicans across the country from trying to ban their use.

The failure of Escamilla's amendment—which was supported by the two Democrats on the committee and opposed by the five Republicans—proves that the GOP in Utah is "totally fine with targeting trans teens and letting cis teens do what they want," said rights advocate Erin Reed, who tracks legislative attacks on transgender people.

S.B. 16 is now expected to be debated on the state Senate floor, and will have "catastrophic" consequences for transgender youth if it passes.

Numerous studies have shown that gender-affirming care reduces the risk of depression and suicide among transgender teenagers and children, leading the American Academy of Pediatrics to recommend that youths have access to puberty blockers and "when appropriate, surgical interventions."

Republicans' refusal to back Escamilla's amendment showed that "this is not about protecting kids."

"It's about policing transness," she wrote, "and making it harder to exist as a transgender person in America."

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