Republicans look to extend transgender restrictions to adults

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
A demonstrator at a rally for transgender rights
A demonstrator at a rally for transgender rights in New York, March 31. (Alex Kent/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The Republican-led backlash against rights and health care for transgender children is expanding to adults. Missouri’s Republican Attorney General Andrew Bailey issued an emergency ruling Thursday that requires adults to receive 18 months of psychological therapy and to demonstrate “a persistent and intense pattern of gender dysphoria” before they are allowed to undergo gender-affirming care.

In a statement, Bailey said the ruling was “necessary due to the skyrocketing number of gender transition interventions.” Critics of the guidelines responded by saying that gender-affirming care has been shown to be medically effective.

“The Attorney General’s so-called emergency rule is based on distorted, misleading, and debunked claims and ignores the overwhelming body of scientific and medical evidence supporting this care,” the ACLU and Lambda Legal said in a joint statement.

On Thursday, Montana’s Republican-dominated Legislature advanced a bill that would strictly define gender based on sexual organs at birth.

“In human beings, there are exactly two sexes, male and female, with two corresponding gametes,” Senate Bill 458 states. While sponsors of the legislation say it answers the need for clear definitions, opponents counter that, if passed, it will lead to discrimination and lawsuits.

Kentucky state Sen. Max Wise at a press conference in support of S.B. 150 at the state Capitol in Frankfort on March 29, while those opposed to the bill hold signs above.
Kentucky state Sen. Max Wise at a press conference in support of S.B. 150 at the state Capitol in Frankfort on March 29, while those opposed to the bill hold signs above. (Jon Cherry/Getty Images)

The latest two battles in the growing war over transgender rights come as Republican lawmakers nationwide have looked to turn back gains made by LGBTQ groups in recent years. A Washington Post analysis published Monday found that more than 400 anti-trans bills have been introduced in state legislatures across the country since January, more than the number introduced in the previous four years. The legislation is the culmination of a years-long project to push laws targeting transgender Americans that was spearheaded by a network of anti-trans activists, according to reporting by Mother Jones last month.

In addition to seeking to ban transgender people from participating in sports, much anti-trans legislation is focused on banning gender-affirming care for minors. A Reuters report in October found that there were 1,390 U.S. patients ages 6-17 with a prior gender dysphoria diagnosis initiating puberty blockers, versus 633 in 2017. Before patients are put on the blockers or cross-sex hormones, there is extensive counseling and consultations with numerous medical professionals.

A supporter of LGBTQ rights
A supporter of LGBTQ rights at a demonstration in Washington, D.C., on March 31. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)

Organizations like the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics have come out in support of gender-affirming care for minors.

“We believe it is inappropriate and harmful for any state to legislatively dictate that certain transition-related services are never appropriate and limit the range of options physicians and families may consider when making decisions for pediatric patients,” the AMA wrote in a 2021 letter to the National Governors Association.

Dr. Christopher Bolling, a Kentucky pediatrician who testified against a bill banning the care in his state, told Yahoo News earlier this month that minors suffering gender dysphoria “feel isolated and ostracized and different, and they wind up with much higher rates of anxiety, depression, suicide attempts, all sorts of stuff — it’s really bad for their mental health.”

“These kids are a pretty small minority,” Bolling added. “And I think that they’re being used by legislators and politicians and by adults ... and I don’t quite understand it. I think it’s really disturbing.”

Dylan Mulvaney

Earlier this month, conservative outrage swelled when beer maker Anheuser-Busch entered a deal with Dylan Mulvaney, a transgender social media influencer, to promote Bud Light. After Mulvaney posted a video of herself with the beer, conservatives called for a boycott of the beer and posted responses, including one from musician Kid Rock shooting cans of the beverage with an assault rifle. A bomb threat was called in to an Anheuser-Busch Budweiser factory in California. Last year, a series of bomb threats were made against Boston Children's Hospital over its program treating trans youth.

In March, speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference the same day as former President Donald Trump, right-wing commentator Michael Knowles said that transgenderism must be “eradicated.” Knowles later defended his comments, saying they were not genocidal in nature because, since he doesn’t believe transgender people are real, he couldn’t be calling for their elimination.

While the issue has yet to prove a winning message in recent elections, the GOP continues to look for ways to curtail transgender rights. So far this year, 29 bills that take aim at transgender identity have become law in 14 states, the Washington Post reported. All of them were signed by Republican governors or were passed by veto-proof margins in GOP-dominated legislatures.