Human Rights Campaign Condemns Oklahoma Legislators for Proposal Banning Gender Affirming Care, Weaponizing Federal COVID Relief Funds

by Henry Berg-Brousseau

“Oklahoma legislators should be ashamed: they’re holding millions of dollars in desperately-needed COVID relief hostage so that they can, once again, demonstrate how much they dislike transgender youth."

Today, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization, responded to the passing of SB 3, proposed today during the Oklahoma legislature’s special session. The bill threatens to withhold almost $40 million in federal COVID relief dollars granted in President Biden’s American Rescue Plan from OU Health if the medical facility continues to provide age-appropriate, medically necessary gender-affirming care. Today’s move comes on the heels of far-right pressure placed upon lawmakers, spearheaded by ongoing disinformation campaigns on social media and other platforms. This development also comes as medical professionals who provide gender affirming care continue to face escalating threats of violence, which are not only occurring online, but are carrying over into the real world as well. The American Academy of Pediatrics expressed solidarity and support of these providers in a statement yesterday, along with their opposition to any legislation that attempts to ban or severely limit gender affirming care.

In response, HRC State Legislative Director and Senior Counsel and Cathryn Oakley issued the following statement:

“Oklahoma legislators should be ashamed: they’re holding millions of dollars in desperately-needed COVID relief hostage so that they can, once again, demonstrate how much they dislike transgender youth. This is nothing more than extremist politicians using federal relief funds as a weapon to restrict life-saving care for transgender youth, an already vulnerable population who simply want access to medically necessary care. This best-practice medical care is supported by every major medical association in the country. If these lawmakers truly cared about the wellbeing of Oklahoma’s youth, they’d fund the hospital without discriminatory strings attached. Instead, they are choosing to actively harm transgender youth for selfish political purposes.”

Last month, HRC, in conjunction with the Center for Countering Digital Hate, released a report shining a light on the proliferation and effects of anti-LGTBQ+ narratives and disinformation on social media, and their drive behind the discriminatory rhetoric and public policy decisions of extremist politicians, bills much like the one revealed today. Key findings can be found here, along with a full copy of the report.

Get the facts about gender-affirming care:

  • Every credible medical organization – representing over 1.3 million doctors in the United States – calls for age-appropriate gender-affirming care for transgender and non-binary people.
    • “Transition-related” or “gender-affirming” care looks different for every transgender and non-binary person.

    • Parents, their kids, and doctors make decisions together, and no medical interventions with permanent consequences happen until a transgender person is old enough to give truly informed consent.

  • Gender transition is a personal process that can include changing clothes, names, and hairstyles to fit a person’s gender identity.
    • Some people take medication, and some do not; some adults have surgeries, and others do not. How someone transitions is their choice, to be made with their family and their doctor.

    • Therapists, parents and health care providers work together to determine which changes to make at a given time that are in the best interest of the child.

    • In most young children, this care can be entirely social. This means:
      • New name

      • New hairstyle

      • New clothing

      • None of this care is irreversible.

  • Being transgender is not new.
    • Some say it can feel like being transgender is very new – but that’s because the media has been covering it more in recent months and years.

    • But transgender people have always existed and will continue to exist regardless of the bills we pass.

    • And very few transgender people change their mind.

  • ALL gender-affirming care is:
    • Age-appropriate

    • Medically necessary

    • Supported by all major medical organizations

    • Made in consultation with medical and mental health professionals AND parents

  • And in many cases, this care is lifesaving!

    • A recent study from the Trevor Project provides data supporting this — transgender youth with access to gender-affirming hormone therapy have lower rates of depression and are at a lower risk for suicide.

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