Statement in response to Utah H.B. 92

Candice Metzler, Executive Director for Transgender Education Advocates of Utah, released the following statement in response to Utah House Bill 92, which is sponsored by Rep. Rex Shipp in the 2021 Utah Legislative Session:

"H.B. 92 demonstrates how power and authority can be used to stigmatize and degrade vulnerable groups of people. One only needs to examine the language in the bill to understand that it is about bias towards people whose gender identity and/or body do not conform to social expectations.

The use of language like "transgender procedures" reflects a bias towards gender nonconformity, and a possible lack of awareness when it comes to understanding that these types of medical interventions are also used on people who do not identify as transgender.

For example, puberty blockers are often used for treating precocious puberty (early onset of puberty), which can have long-lasting health implications if not treated early. Children born with intersex development may undergo "sex characteristic-altering procedures" without ever giving consent to the life-long health implications that often follow. In such cases, a doctor and parent can permanently alter the child's body, which can result in the child eventually being on puberty blockers and hormone replacement therapy. These are all decisions being made without the child ever having a say in what happens to their body.

Perhaps the use of language like "transgender procedures" is intended to obscure the fact that these same medical interventions and procedures are used on children in different situations. However, the sponsors do not seem interested in stepping into the decision-making process between parents and doctors in all situations. It is only when parents and doctors are providing support to a gender diverse individual that proponents argue that the government should make the final medical decision.

The sponsors of H.B. 92 would like us to believe that politicians are better positioned to understand these issues than professional bodies like the World Professional  Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) or the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Proponents argue for creating a purity test and double standard that establishes who should have access and what types of bodies and experiences are deserving of specific types of medical treatment. The bill is an enigma in that it both acknowledges the complexity of human sex development and then attempts to restrict that complexity by denying access to medical treatment based on a standard that is about religious belief more than it is about the visible human reality. Excluding and denying access to people who are different will not change that diversity, because it is part of the human experience.

Perhaps we can better understand why gender diverse youth are frequently the target of bullying in Utah schools, because such individuals are also stigmatized and targeted openly by some of our state leaders. H.B. 92 attempts to politicize the very real needs of gender diverse youth and exploits those needs for political purposes. This bill is not about a concern for the health and wellbeing of young people. If it was, the bill would be trying to prevent the use of these medical interventions, in all situations, for anyone who is under 18 years of age. Thankfully, that is not the case because assessment and treatment should be individualized and managed on a case-by-case basis by qualified professionals: not through blanket policy determined by politicians.

The language associated with this bill is degrading to all gender diverse individuals and conveys a clear message that proponents do not fully appreciate or understand the people and issues they seek to restrict. A growing body of research continues to demonstrate that medical interventions like access to puberty blockers are associated with improved mental health and a reduction in lifetime suicidal ideation (Turban, King, Carswell, & Keuroghlian, 2020).

If politicians are so concerned with gender diverse youth, perhaps they should start by listening to such individuals and their families before rushing to deny them access to evidence-based medical interventions that have been shown to improve health and overall functioning. Perhaps they should acknowledge the numerous professional disciplines and professional bodies that have established standards for treatment. The resources and energy being spent on this bill could be put to better use by trying to create more inclusion for gender diverse youth in Utah schools or developing programs that could provide better support to gender diverse students and their families. Families should be able to work with a team of mental health and medical providers to support their gender-diverse child without the interference of a political agenda in the treatment process."

-Candice Metzler, Executive Director for TEA of Utah.

See: Turban, J. L., King, D., Carswell, J. M., & Keuroghlian, A. S. (2020). Pubertal Suppression for Transgender Youth and Risk of Suicidal Ideation. Pediatrics145(2), e20191725. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2019-1725 

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  • Candice Metzler
    published this page in Newsroom 2021-01-22 14:22:28 -0700

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