‘I Can Never Get My Old Body Back’: Montana Senate Hears Testimony for the ‘Youth Health Protection Act’
As state legislative sessions kicked off this month after what was, for some, a months-long recess, the battle over whether to provide gender transition procedures to minors continues to be waged across the United States. As The Washington Stand has reported, legislators in several states have courageously introduced legislation in an attempt to protect minors from the dangers of such procedures. One of these states is Montana, where state Senator John Fuller (R) has introduced S.B. 99, the Youth Health Protection Act.
The bill would prohibit gender transition procedures, including puberty-blocking drugs, cross-sex hormones, and surgeries, from being provided to minors and impose a professional penalty (i.e., loss or suspension of licensure) against physicians who violate the law. The proposal was heard before the Montana Senate Judiciary Committee last Friday and drew dozens of individuals in Montana and around the country out to testify.
Fuller opened the hearing by saying, “Children live under the guardianship of adults, precisely because they lack the maturity, prudence, and experience to make safe, responsible decisions for themselves. When gender dysphoria is in the mix, those decisions can have lifelong consequences.” He continued, “Society has a vested interest in protecting children from potentially dangerous actions.”
The proponent side of the argument featured parents and grandparents, medical and mental health experts, researchers, and individuals who have “detransitioned.” It was clearly challenging for witnesses to confine their testimony concerning their knowledge and personal experience on this important subject to the three-minute timeframe provided.
Walt Heyer, a seasoned veteran in the movement, was the first to stand up in support of the bill, sharing his experience of living as a woman for eight years, detransitioning, and eventually becoming an advocate for those like him who come to regret medically transitioning. “I think this bill is, not only very powerful, it’s very necessary, and I think that the way to reduce regret is to tackle the underlying issues before we introduce them to hormones and surgical procedures that they will regret,” he said.
Also testifying in support of the bill was Camille Kiefel, who shared her experience of identifying as non-binary in her youth and undergoing “top surgery” to remove her breasts. She said that she had struggled for years with physical discomfort, particularly around her breasts and hips, that caused her to disassociate from her body. However, once her physical health issues were properly dealt with, her mental health issues subsided, and she began to, once again, identify with her biological sex. “I was severely misdiagnosed,” she said. “Now, I am left with a mutilated body [and] … I can never get my old body back.”
Family Research Council’s own Dr. Jennifer Bauwens, director of the Center for Family Studies, also provided testimony in support, drawing on her background in research and clinical mental health counseling, including providing trauma therapy to children. She said, “compared to other psychological disorders in the DSM-V-TR, gender dysphoria is currently being treated with the most — the most — invasive interventions connected to any psychological issue, and S.B. 99 would actually address this.”
Dr. Bauwens went on to explain the deficiencies in much of the research supporting so-called “gender-affirming care” and the process in which generally accepted guidelines were adopted. She also touched on the high success rate of non-intervention for children experiencing gender dysphoria, meaning that a high percentage of children grow out of the condition and eventually become at peace with their bodies without medical intervention.
Also testifying in support were Heritage Foundation research fellow, Jay Richards, self-identified “former trans kid,” mother Erin Brewer, David Reece of the Changed Movement, and several Montana-based medical professionals and residents.
Many also showed up to testify in opposition to the bill, including two state representatives, local religious leaders, Montana medical professionals, transgender-identifying individuals (including youth), and parents with children who have begun the process of medical transition. Unfortunately, many of these individuals misguidedly advocated for embracing and nurturing children’s gender dysphoria, rather than seeking proper mental health treatment, as is standard for dealing with other conditions causing severe emotional distress.
The testimony was emotional at times, with opponents of the bill arguing that children are at high risk for suicide if they are unable to obtain gender transition procedures and that parents should be able to consent to such procedures for their children. Opponents accused supporters of the bill of being motivated by hatred toward the LGBT population and of unjustly seeking to insert themselves into Montanan’s private medical decisions with their physicians.
During the Q&A portion of the hearing, when Dr. Bauwens was asked about the comorbidities often associated with gender dysphoria, she said, “ … These are children, and we are doing some of the most radical things, the most radical interventions that exist in the DSM-V-TR, and there isn’t the evidence to support this.”
Derek Oestreicher, chief legal counsel and director of Government Affairs at the Montana Family Foundation, which has been active in promoting the bill, said of the hearing, “The Montana Family Foundation was proud to stand alongside detransitioned individuals, medical experts, and scholars to fight to protect children from dangerous, life-changing surgeries and radical hormone therapies. We are thankful to Senator John Fuller and the Senate Judiciary Committee for holding a fair hearing to learn the truth about these irreversible procedures that are being pushed on young children.”
S.B. 99 is expected to be voted on by the Senate Judiciary Committee sometime in the next week. If it passes, it will go before the full Montana Senate.