Despite the fact that medications are well studied and have been used safely since the late 1980s, Rep. Brad Roae (R-Crawford/Erie) wants to legislate against gender change surgery and puberty blockers for minors.
The northwestern PA legislator is circulating a co-sponsorship memoranda that would address a one-size-fits-all approach to permanent irreversible gender change decisions by simply considering an adolescent’s mental capacity, maturity, and ongoing brain development at the time that a minor child wants a permanent irreversible gender change.
Roae suggests that the human brain continues to develop into a person’s 20s and that adolescents “are less capable of making thoughtful decisions, are more likely to make impulsive decisions and be influenced by peer pressure than when they are older.”
A member of the state House since 2007, Roae is calling for the state to “consider the lack of youth social-emotional and cognitive control” as they consider “irreversible” gender changing surgery and puberty blocker medication systems for minors under the age of 18.
An article in May’s edition of Scientific American says that the medications Roae questions “are well studied and have been used safely since the late 1980s to pause puberty in adolescents with gender dysphoria. They have been used routinely for even longer in children who enter puberty too early and in adults with a range of other medical conditions. Puberty-blocking medications are part of a class of hormonal therapies that include birth control pills, treatments for menopause symptoms, treatments for certain kinds of cancer, and more.”
Florida, Idaho, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, North Dakota, South Dakota, West Virginia, Arkansas, Mississippi, Utah, Iowa and Tennessee have banned gender-affirming care for anyone under 18 years old. The American Civil Liberties Union is tracking the status of 122 health care–related anti-LGBTQ+ bills, which disproportionally target transgender youth.
Puberty has a long natural window, which typically occurs between eight and 14 years of age and lasts from two to five years. Blockers are usually prescribed once puberty has already begun, and the process involves evaluations by multiple doctors, including mental health practitioners, explained Stephen Rosenthal, a member of the board of directors at the World Professional Association for Transgender Health and a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of California, San Francisco, Benioff Children’s Hospitals.
Medication that pauses puberty, specifically, has the power to prevent a mental health crisis, making the treatment a “profoundly meaningful intervention” for a young person and their family, says Meredithe McNamara, an adolescent medicine physician at the Yale School of Medicine. “Puberty-blocking treatment is probably one of the most compassionate things that a parent can consent to for a transgender child.” It allows transgender children and their families the opportunity to weigh their options carefully, without the constant pressure of physical changes, she says.
Roae wrote that under his proposed legislation, “permanent and irreversible gender change surgery and puberty blockers would be banned for minors under 18 years of age. As elected officials, we must ensure our youth, including juveniles and adolescents, are treated fairly.”