SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – A new bill being drafted on Capitol Hill may force teens identifying as transgender to wait until the age of 18 to pursue hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery. Critics of the bill worry it could cause more harm than good.
For Utah County resident Rylee Deeben, the last eight years have been difficult. During that time, she’s experienced gender dysphoria and suffered from depression and anxiety after coming out as gay and being bullied in junior high.
“I would always look in the mirror and question why I was so uncomfortable with the way I looked or the body parts I had,” said Deeben.
She almost lost her life to suicide in 9th grade because of the emotional and mental burdens she endured as a transgender teen. Without the financial means or support of her family, she had to wait until she was 18 to fully transition.
“I would have definitely had hormone therapy and surgery when I was 16 if I could. It would have saved me from so much grief and problems with development and growing up. I wouldn’t have had to go through male puberty and then female puberty too,'” she said. “But my family wasn’t very accepting and wouldn’t let me transition. So for that time, I just socially transitioned.”
Under a new bill being drafted by Rep. Brad Daw, teens with the same experience as Deeben’s wouldn’t have the option to pursue hormone therapy or gender assignment surgery until they are legally an adult.
“We saw that there were some transgender procedures being performed on minors. We studied that, what was going on, and what the concerns were. We actually approached some doctors and some providers and asked them some very pointed questions,” he said. “Since then, the operations that we’ve heard of have ceased to happen. But that made us think, ‘We ought to have something in statute because this kind of a thing is so life-changing. It needs to happen when they’re an adult.'”
He said this is not an all-out ban on transgender procedures, but rather a way for transgender teens to have more time before they can make a fully-informed and mature decision.
“I don’t want this to be perceived as any kind of an attack or front. I just want this to be perceived as, ‘Let’s look at best medical practices and make sure that’s what we’re doing here in the state,'” said Rep. Daw. “We don’t think you’re broken. We don’t think that there’s a problem here. We just feel like that this kind of an irreversible decision needs to be made when you’re fully an adult.”
Deeben said there are a number of steps leading up to gender reassignment surgery that include undergoing hormone therapy for approximately a year and obtaining approval letters from mental therapists, psychiatrists, and hormone therapists.
“You have to go through all these steps before you’re even allowed to have gender reassignment surgery just to make sure this is really what you want and this is really the path you want to go with your life,” said Deeben.
She argued most transgender teens already know their true identity at a young age and by taking away their option to begin transitioning, she fears it could cause suicide rates to go up.
“If a transgender teen could start hormone therapy beforehand, it’s life-changing for them because they don’t develop secondary sex characteristics that are detrimental to the gender dysphoria feeling. Unless you are transgender, you cannot fathom what it feels like to have gender dysphoria and have to take these steps to finally become who you are,” she said.
She added, “What legislators don’t understand is there’s that high suicide rate because people are trying to dictate what we can do to our own bodies. Why would you make somebody wait until they’re 18 to take life-saving measures? People always say that’s because it’s hard to transition, but it’s not. The problem isn’t transitioning, the life-saving step is transitioning. The problem is ignorance.”
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