TN GOP leaders introduce bill to prevent gender-affirming healthcare

Tennessee State Capitol
Tennessee State Capitol(WSMV)
Published: Nov. 9, 2022 at 9:32 AM CST|Updated: Nov. 9, 2022 at 8:23 PM CST
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) -

Just one day after the midterm election, legislation to prohibit gender-affirming healthcare for children was introduced on Wednesday by the two Tennessee majority leaders.

The Republican legislators, William Lamberth, R-Portland, and Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, said the moves come after the video from Mark Walsh on the Vanderbilt University Medical Center transgender clinic.

“Interfering or destroying the healthy, normal reproductive organs of a child for the purpose of altering their appearance is profoundly unethical and morally wrong,” Lamberth said in a news release. “Through the passage of [this bill], Tennessee will protect vulnerable children who cannot give informed consent for adult decisions they aren’t ready for.”

According to Johnson, the bill is about protecting children.

“Under no circumstances should minors be allowed to undergo irreversible elective procedures to mutilate body parts and intentionally harm their reproductive systems,” Johnson said in a news release. “This practice comes with lifelong health complications that children are not capable of understanding.”

“It makes me feel frustrated and disappointed, but it does not make me feel surprised,” Markus Thurman said. “Being transgender in Tennessee is not a very easy thing to do.”

The legislators said in a press release the bill – House Bill 1/Senate Bill 1 – would provide the nation’s strongest protections against the removal of a child’s healthy body parts.

Thurman, who is going through a procedure, said this new legislation is not protection but politics.

“I have had a double mastectomy as well and I’ve begun hormone replacement therapy for testosterone,” Thurman said.

Thurman attended a rally in October that demanded an end to the dangerous rhetoric and laws harming transgender youth and their doctors.

Thurman offered his thoughts on the new bill that bans medical interference that alters a child’s hormonal balance and procedures that remove their organs to enable the minor to identify as a gender different from their biological sex.

“I think it makes people more afraid of transgender people rather than more willing to learn about the experience, and that’s how we get issues such as the bomb threats that Vanderbilt clinics were faced with,” Thurman said.

“The wording in it makes it sound terrible like gender confirmation is not the same as genital mutilation,” Nashville resident Jocelyn Enriquez said. “When in reality this is consensual and it’s to help someone live and be their true self, like it’s not a violent thing.”

The legislation also has legal ramifications. It would:

  • Create a private right of action allowing a minor or the parent of a minor injured as a result of the violation to sue for damages;
  • Allows a child to bring a civil cause of action against a parent if a parent consented to the violation on the minor’s behalf;
  • Allows courts to impose a $25,000 penalty per violation;
  • Requires the state attorney general to establish a process for reporting violation of the law;
  • Allows the state attorney general to bring an action against a health care provider for knowingly violating the law within 20 years of the violation

“It should all be consensual. If the parent is forcing it on the child, then yea, absolutely, but usually it’s the person going through the situation that is looking for gender confirmation surgery,” Enriquez said.

“I think that’s something to remember is what percentage of trans people end up regretting their transition,” Thurman said. “I think it’s important to remember how small that percentage is.”

In October, Vanderbilt University Medical Center said it halted its gender-affirming surgeries on patients under 18.

In a letter to Republican lawmaker Jason Zachary, the hospital said an average of five patients per year under the age of 18 among the patients have received gender-affirming surgical procedures. The hospital said in all those cases all the patients were at least 16 and parental consent was obtained.

HB1/SB1 also includes an exception. The bill makes exceptions for children born with chromosomal anomalies or congenital defects.

The 113th Tennessee General Assembly is scheduled to convene on Jan. 10, 2023.