Human Rights Campaign: South Dakota Lawmakers Turn Their Backs on Trans Kids Once Again

by Cullen Peele

Pierre, SD - Today, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization, condemned members of the South Dakota Senate for passing HB 1080, a bill that would ban age-appropriate, best practice gender-affirming care for transgender youth. The bill was passed by the South Dakota House last week.

The legislation, which will likely be signed into law by Governor Kristi Noem, would cause healthcare providers to lose their medical license or other certifications if they administer what is age appropriate, medically necessary, life-saving care to transgender children – care that is supported by every credible medical organization representing over 1.3 million doctors in the United States. South Dakota lawmakers are caving to a far-right pressure campaign spearheaded by political extremists and disinformation on social media and other platforms. It is one of hundreds of bills being pushed by national anti-LGBTQ+ organizations across dozens of states.

Gender-affirming care is age-appropriate care that is medically necessary for the well-being of many transgender and non-binary people who experience symptoms of gender dysphoria, or distress that results from having one’s gender identity not match their sex assigned at birth. Gender-affirming care is the integration of medical, mental health and social services. For transgender children, transition is an entirely social process which may include a new name or pronouns, wearing different clothes or styling one’s hair differently. At puberty, doctors may一in consultation with and having the informed consent of the transgender youth and their parents一prescribe reversible medication known as puberty-blockers, which allow a young person to safely reach an age in which they’re truly able to consent to further treatment.

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

“This is yet another example of legislators deliberately ignoring the real issues facing South Dakotans, and instead shamelessly targeting a small group of vulnerable youth simply trying to navigate life as their authentic selves. This legislation has nothing to do with the reality for transgender youth who receive gender-affirming care, on the advice of their doctors and with the consent of their parents, that is age-appropriate, medically-necessary best practice care. Instead, it is about currying favor with extremist voices on the far-right who have no shame about harming young folks for their perceived political gain. These legislators don’t know more about this healthcare than every major medical association, representing more than 1.3 million doctors, and note that this legislation will continue to allow non-transgender youth to continue to receive this same care. They are admitting discrimination, not science, is their motive. We call on the South Dakota Senate to reject this discriminatory legislation, and to start focusing on ways to actually improve the well-being and public health of children in the state.”

Cathryn Oakley, HRC’s State Legislative Director and Senior Counsel

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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