BISMARCK, ND (KXNET) — This legislative session included more than 20 bills that can be considered anti-transgender legislation. While progress has been made over the years, some feel lawmakers are overstepping their bounds by making legislation about transgender individuals and their medical decisions.
“This is something that our culture is starting to understand more acutely these days than we ever have before,” said Cathryn Oakley, HRC State Legislative Director and Senior Counsel. “And that’s a good thing. That means that we are showing compassion that we are listening, and that we are paying attention. Other cultures, in fact, are a long ways ahead of us in these in this conversation. And transgender people simply are not new.”
But as KX News reported, numerous anti-transgender bills have been introduced in the legislature, threatening to reverse some of the momentum and progress that has been made when it comes to transgender individuals rights in North Dakota. Whether it’s denying treatment or refusing to use an individual’s preferred pronoun, Oakley says the ramifications of these bills are concerning.
“They’re ignoring the fact that there are real, very significant harms,” Oakley explained. “Mental and physical health harms that happen to young folks who are not able to receive the care that they need, and for some this is life saving care, and taking it away has a very, very serious consequence.”
Dr. Rachel Peterson says research shows that starting gender affirming care in the teenage years is validating and beneficial, lowering the rate of suicide and mental health issues.
“Because they are becoming who they are meant to be rather than experiencing things in their body that are very distressing,” Rachel Peterson, OBGYN Physician said. “If you have someone who their whole life has felt that they are female, and they start having male experience with puberty, or vice versa, that’s very distressing to them and really compounds their dysphoria.”
And the process is no small undertaking.
“It’s not like you come in, you say you want treatment and you start treatment that day,” Dr. Peterson said. “Most of the time we have conversations. We usually use a team approach where most people have a psychologist or psychiatrist, they have a primary care physician, so that we can all work together to make sure they get the right medications, treatments, support, etc.”
Some have concerns about transgender individuals regretting their decision to use puberty blocking or gender affirming medications such as testosterone or estrogen. But according to Dr. Peterson, research shows the risk of regret is less than one-percent, and the changes brought on by these medications are not permanent.
“The thing about puberty blockers is once you stop them, everything is reversible,” Dr. Peterson explained. “So they kind of start back where they left off in terms of puberty.”
And whether a person chooses to use these medications or not, Representative Josh Boschee says legislators should not have power over any individual’s medical decisions.
“I think it’s an extreme overreach into the patient provider,” Representative Joshua Boschee. “Privacy, you know, when we as the legislature going into that doctor’s office and telling them what they can and can’t do is a gross overreach. And I don’t think any North Dakotan would want the legislature to tell them what kind of treatment they can get if they’re dealing with cancer, diabetes, any other form of health care.”
And like any other bill, Peterson emphasizes the importance of legislators listening to the people.
“Really with these bills, I think it’s so important for legislators to talk to parents and children who are transgender and see their point of view because is, really, that’s the most important people that should be talked to with bills like this.” said Peterson.