Ban on gender-affirming procedures for transgender youth fails in legislature

Critics say it’s one of several bills filed for introduction that would restrict the rights of vulnerable LGBTQ+ Wyomingites.
The Wyoming State Capitol in Cheyenne on Feb. 13, 2024.

A law banning gender-affirming procedures for transgender youth in Wyoming died in the House of Representatives on Wednesday.

By a vote of 33 to 28, representatives in the House declined to take up the measure when it failed to secure the required two-thirds majority for bills to be introduced in a budget session.

House Bill 63 is just one of several pieces of legislation submitted to the Legislature this session that critics say would target vulnerable LGBTQ+ groups in the state. 

Lawmakers argue these bills are necessary to keep young people from getting surgeries or treatments that could be difficult to reverse if they later change their minds.

Rep. Lloyd Larsen (R-Lander) is one of the sponsors of the bill.

“I’m just saying, I think you need to have a little maturity, both physically, emotionally and mentally before we’re gonna allow you to make that decision for yourself,” said Larsen. “This (bill) will require them to wait.”

Antonio Serrano, the advocacy director for the ACLU of Wyoming, said kids receiving gender-affirming care when they need it can make a huge difference for their overall health and mental well-being.

It reduces the number of kids who are suffering from depression from suicide, suicidal issues, things like that,” said Serrano. “And that’s in a state like Wyoming where that’s a big problem.”

A harsher version of Larsen’s bill called “Chloe’s Law” died in committee during the 2023 legislative session after fierce debate. It would have imposed penalties for physicians and other healthcare providers for performing gender-affirming surgeries and administering hormone blockers to anyone under the age of 18.

Larsen’s variation would’ve solely restricted the procedures themselves. He said he would leave it up to the boards that oversee medical professions in the state to determine any punishment for violating the new statute.

“Typically, if they violate a state statute, whether you’re a dentist, an accountant or a barber, then the chances are you’ll lose your license,” he said.

Available studies suggest that limiting gender-diverse kids’ options for affirming care can have negative consequences on their mental health.

A different bill filed on Monday, House Bill 156, would declare gender-affirming care more broadly to be not in the best interest of trans kids. Some fear that it might make it easier for family members and others to sue for custody of trans kids who have received gender-affirming treatments or who are seeking them.

And yet another, titled the “What is a Woman Act,” would mean public schools in the state wouldn’t recognize trans kids in their enrollment data unless they go by the pronouns given to them at birth.

It would mandate trans people in Wyoming to use only the locker rooms, bathrooms and other facilities that correspond with their biological sex at birth.

“This, to me, is outside interests making it into the state,” Serrano said. “The “what is a woman” debate comes from political commentators who spew this hateful rhetoric on YouTube and all these places, and it picks up a lot of steam, and then some people bring that here.”

The bill shares its name with a 2022 viral documentary by conservative commentator Matt Walsh that detractors say is anti-LGBTQ and anti-trans in nature.

The bill’s sponsor in the House told Cowboy State Daily it’s a coincidence that the legislation and the documentary have the same name.

This reporting was made possible by a grant from the Corporation For Public Broadcasting, supporting state government coverage in the state. Wyoming Public Media and Jackson Hole Community Radio are partnering to cover state issues both on air and online.

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