‘Chloe’s Law’ would ban gender-affirming care for kids in Wyoming — advocates worry about the results

Critics say the latest ban moving through the Legislature is an intrusion on the rights of kids, parents and physicians in Wyoming.
Casper Pride hosted a “write your legislators” event at its center on Melrose on Feb. 26 for people to express their thoughts about bills like “Chloe’s Law.” (Chris Clements/KHOL)

On a frigid winter day in Cheyenne, lawmakers and Wyomingites filed into a wood-paneled committee room underneath the State Capitol. 

They came to give testimony — or to hear it — on legislation that aims to regulate the medical options available for kids under the age of 18 in the state.

“So what I’m presenting to you is Senate File 99, ‘Chloe’s Law,’ gender change prohibition,” Sen. Anthony Bouchard (R-Cheyenne) said to the group gathered. Bouchard is the sponsor of the bill, named after a California activist who detransitioned from her gender identity after receiving a mastectomy at 15.

It’s a ban that would prevent underage Wyoming residents from accessing forms of healthcare that affirm their gender identity and expression, known as “gender-affirming care.” 


That term can refer to a wide range of healthcare services, from social and legal services and talk therapy to medical procedures. 

Bouchard and supporters of the ban say they don’t consider those treatments to be proper. They’re worried that some forms of gender-affirming care could be difficult to reverse if people who receive that care later come to regret it.

“These kids are being kicked to the curb, because you have a whole movement that doesn’t even want to listen to what’s happening there to these victims,” Bouchard said.

Opponents of the “Chloe’s Law” ban emphasize the medical associations and research that have found gender-affirming care to reduce feelings of depression and suicide in an already-vulnerable population. 

They point to data that shows it’s rare for trans people who undergo treatments related to gender-identity transitions to later wish they could reverse them.

The idea behind these treatments is that they seek to lessen the feelings of distress that can come when someone’s sex assigned at birth doesn’t match their gender identity. 

The Senate passed a similar bill to Bouchard’s last year, also referred to as “Chloe’s Law”, but it died after fierce debate in the House

A smattering of cowboy hats stuck out from the crowd as the hearing moved along. Sara Burlingame, the executive director of Wyoming Equality, stepped up to the podium to speak.

“We are unsurprisingly not in support of this bill,” said Burlingame. “This is a pretty unheard-of intrusion into the character (of physicians) by the Wyoming Legislature.”

She pointed out the gender transition surgeries for minors that this ban would outlaw aren’t performed in Wyoming. Not only that, she said Wyoming Equality is opposed to those types of surgeries for minors. 

“As are all the best practices in medicine,” Burlingame said. “There is no disagreement on that. The only disagreement is, should the Legislature be able to dictate to Wyoming physicians what level of care that they can provide?”

Most guidelines for physicians say minors should take caution in receiving gender transition surgeries, but Burlingame said there are other gender-affirming treatments that are helpful, like puberty blockers and hormone therapy. 

Both would be outlawed under the new statute, and physicians could lose their medical licenses if they administer them or violate any other part of the law. 

Burlingame and those opposing the ban worry this would muddy the waters of what kinds of healthcare physicians can legally provide their patients.

“It’s very troubling to people who are looking to practice medicine in the state of Wyoming,” she said.

The state is already dealing with a shortage of physicians. 

Imagine a scenario, Burlingame said, where a young person who is gender-fluid comes to see a doctor in Wyoming to be treated for a bladder infection. If “Chloe’s Law” goes into effect, it could pose a range of difficult questions for that physician.

“How do I not treat a minor with a bladder infection?” Burlingame said. “There is no way for me to have this conversation as a physician without addressing their dysphoria. Have I then committed a crime?”

Gender dysphoria refers to the feelings of unease that can come when a person’s sex on their birth certificate doesn’t match their gender expression. 

And a larger issue with this legislation, according to Burlingame, is the way Bouchard and others involved with it have publicly discussed it.

“(Sen. Bouchard) doesn’t couch this in terms of policy to protect children or policy to set medical standards. Instead, he goes on social media and makes it very clear that anybody who supports this is supporters of pedophilia, supporters of grooming children, supporters of mutilation, and in the most crass and undemocratic and venal terms,” said Burlingame.

Sen. Bouchard said he doesn’t believe that language to be a problem. In fact, he said most of the trans and LGBTQ+ people in the state he’s spoken with aren’t interested in stopping the legislation.

“It just really depends whether they’re activists or not,” he said. “I’ve talked to people who are gay. And they told me that this isn’t even their issue. They just want to be left alone, as gay people, and they don’t think that this fight with the transgender is theirs.”

When asked about recent well-attended contact-your-legislator events hosted in Jackson, Cheyenne and Casper in response to bills like “Chloe’s Law,” Bouchard said, “it just depends whether they’re cultural Marxists, or they just want to be left alone.”

Rep. Mike Yin (D-Jackson) argued “Chloe’s Law” amounts to an undue restriction on the parents of trans kids, and the kids themselves.

“I think even if you say, like, the bill did nothing, because it (gender-affirming surgeries) doesn’t happen, it doesn’t matter, because it’s still on the principal getting involved in getting the government in between the parents and their child’s healthcare choices,” said Yin.

At one of those contact-your-legislator events in Casper earlier this week, Daniel Galbreath and others in the community chatted about the messages they were going to send to their legislators – written on pink-and-blue postcards – about bills like “Chloe’s Law.” 

Galbreath is the coordinator of the All Coalition, which is affiliated with Casper Pride. 

“We’re also letting folks who maybe have voted against that community or voted to harm that community – we’re just letting them know that we are here, and that we see what they’re doing, and that it’s causing some people harm,” said Galbreath.

Grace Niemitalo is a mental health provider in Casper who has patients under the age of 18. 

She was at the event because she’s worried about how legislation like “Chloe’s Law” impacts her patients.  

“A lot of the fear and a lot of the mental health concerns they’re experiencing, suicidality, fear of not belonging, fear of being targeted – legislation like this really drives that fear,” said Niemitalo. “And it really puts those young folks at risk, to be quite honest.”

The group has already sent the postcards to their legislators.

Meanwhile, “Chloe’s Law” received sweeping support in the Senate this week. If it passes three readings in the House, it would then proceed to the Governor’s desk.

Some who testified at the Senate committee meeting raised the concern that if it passed the Legislature, “Chloe’s Law” would almost certainly face a legal challenge that could end up saddling taxpayers with the bill.

Last year, a ban similar to “Chloe’s Law” was struck down in Arkansas by a federal judge who said it violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Other bans on gender-affirming care have been temporarily blocked by federal judges in Florida, Indiana, and Kentucky.

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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