New Hampshire Rep. Dave Testerman is not a clinician, does not understand transgender health care, and yet is advancing a bill declaring gender-affirming care to be “child abuse.” While 69 people signed up to speak at a public hearing on his bill last week, Testerman, R-Franklin, left without hearing a single concerned citizen. The panel shut down testimony Wednesday after a few comments, leaving many people waiting.
House Bill 68 expands the definition of child abuse to include anyone who attempts to provide gender-affirming care. House Bill 198, sponsored by the same lawmakers, seeks not only to limit participation in girls’ sports but also, to define gender (against agreed-upon scientific definitions) as the “reality of biological differences between the sexes and rooted in objective biological fact and fairness.”
These legislators are advancing a systematic effort by Republicans across the country to try to stop transgender people from participating in sports and receiving vital health care, calling it “barbaric.” I am a nurse practitioner and CEO of a transgender health center that cares for patients across New England. This law harms my patients. Gender-affirming care isn’t barbaric. It saves lives.
Legislating bodies isn’t in line with the New Hampshire state motto, “Live free or die.” Despite this, lawmakers are presenting the same discriminatory bills that have been proposed in Alabama, Missouri, Texas, Mississippi, Montana, Indiana and Utah. They’ve done this before. Instead of learning from past mistakes, they’re again trying to disproportionately harm transgender individuals.
These bills mirror a federal trend the previous Trump administration and Republican allies had forwarded. Arriving on the heels of the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights ruling, which attempted to limit trans athletes’ participation in sports, they follow the federal reversal of health care protections for transgender citizens. They also follow a Trump-era rule that permits social-service providers to discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity and the ban on transgender people serving in the military. This is part of an anti-transgender agenda reacting to President Biden’s executive order calling for these policies to be reversed.
Republicans are waging this insidious strategy across the country to define gender. Lawmakers shouldn’t define “biological fact” and “fairness.” Individuals and families should decide how to participate in sports, what bathroom to use, which health care provider to see, and what clinical interventions are or are not appropriate. These legislators are dictating how we receive health care and trying to redefine fundamental science.
Some lawmakers believe that gender is defined at birth. They need not redefine their own beliefs. However, those beliefs, which are in the minority, shouldn’t supersede research and be imposed on others.
Access to the right bathroom, affirming health care, and the ability to play on the right team are ways in which these kids can exist and express their identity. Denying this is part of a concerted effort to define transgender individuals out of existence.
These lawmakers are anachronistic; their dialogue centers around fears of transgender women and the impact of testosterone. Their overvaluation of testosterone in sports is unsupported by contemporary research and has been repeatedly debunked. As testosterone decreases, so too does bone density and muscle mass. A recent review concluded that there is “a paucity of evidence” supporting any actual physiological data comparing sports performance to hormones. This fearmongering around female athletes obscures conversation around transgender men being forced to compete in women’s divisions.
Youth sports provide widespread and essential health benefits. Excluding kids would only further harm an already marginalized community that suffers from high rates of suicide. Instead, increasing support for transgender youth can dramatically reduce the risk of suicide from 57 percent to 4 percent. The passing of these bills would cause direct harm to minors and increase the likelihood of suicide in the Granite State.
Enabling transgender kids to live their lives on the playing fields, in the clinic, at school, at home and beyond, generally decreases psychological distress. Better yet, affirming transgender youth leads to mental health on par with their cisgender peers. By the design of these bills, lawmakers are doing just the opposite.
Researchers and health care practitioners have demonstrated that gender-affirming care is unequivocally beneficial for transgender youth. Pubertal suppression, a treatment also deemed safe for cisgender boys and girls, leads to decreased suicidal ideation in transgender youth. Additionally, research demonstrates improved quality of life and health after receiving gender-affirming hormones. The data is clear; if transgender kids are allowed to play sports and access affirming care, lives will be saved.
Legislators need to stop creating undue barriers to care and start responding to their constituents’ needs. These laws not only hurt the transgender community, who is already forced to live “in the shadows,” but also the surrounding community, which faces severe economic losses when legislators pass anti-LGBTQ laws. Instead, these legislators should follow the lead of Gov. Sununu and work to protect all Granite Staters.