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Politics & Policy

No WaPo, the South Dakota Transgender Bill Is Not about the Culture Wars

A participant lies on a giant Transgender Pride Flag during the Equality March, organized by the LGBT community in Kiev, Ukraine June 23, 2019. (Gleb Garanich/Reuters)

South Dakota’s House State Affairs Committee voted 8–5 yesterday to consider a bill — the Vulnerable Child Protection Act — that would make it a misdemeanor for doctors to chemically or surgically interfere with a gender-confused child’s sexual development. The bill — which can be read here — will drop on the House floor Monday.

The Washington Post’s report on the decision would give the impression that this is nothing more than the usual culture wars nonsense, a Here-We-Go-Again of bigoted conservatives versus progressives and professionals. Representative Fred Deutsch (R.), the bill’s co-sponsor, “has framed the bill as ‘homegrown’ but said he consulted with conservative groups such as the Liberty Counsel and the Kelsey Coalition as he was drafting it,” the Post reporters wrote, inaccurately. Indeed, the Kelsey Coalition’s website clearly indicates that they are a “non-partisan, unfunded, volunteer-run organization” with a “singular mission to promote policies and laws to protect young people who identify as transgender.” The Post has since corrected this, though they have not — as of this writing — acknowledged the error.

Later on, the Post reporters home in on Deutsch’s seemingly suspicious emotional state:

During the debate, Deutsch’s voice became extremely shaky as he said, “Come on, can you wait till you’re 16? Think about what you knew when you were that age.”

It’s lawmakers’ “role to interject. We need to be the adult in the room,” he said.

While contrasting this with the dispassionate presence of the people in lab coats:

House Minority Leader Jamie Smith (D) retorted that doctors and parents were already involved in decisions about gender transitioning, saying, “Is it possible there are other adults in the room?”

At the hearing, about 24 people in white lab coats wore pins that read, “Every child counts,” and said they were opposed to the bill. Representatives from the South Dakota State Medical Association and Sanford Health testified that the bill goes against “best practices.”

Later, the Post reporters conclude that “the debate mirrored the nation’s culture wars, with Republican and Democratic lawmakers disputing not just medical facts, but also morality, parenting and the role of doctors in American life,” before giving the final word to a mother of a child who has transitioned her child, and who says the bill is “just designed to create more divide.”

However, Jane Wheeler, a lesbian lawyer, and president of Rethink Identity Medicine Ethics (ReIME), “a diverse group of multi-specialist clinicians and interdisciplinary scholars in the fields of psychiatry, psychology, endocrinology, sociology and the law,” told me by email that “no one is interested in culture wars except for lobby organizations,”

There are groups now with real medical and ethical concerns about puberty blockers. These groups like Rethink Identity Medicine Ethics, The Kelsey Coalition, 4thWaveNow, GCCAN, Gender Health Query and SEGM are not radical feminist groups, religious or right-wing. The public has a right to know they exist, what they are saying and why.

There is a genuine conversation about media strategy to be had among those who oppose the medicalization of gender-confused children. Obviously, the broader the coalition the better. This means involving transgender adults, gays and lesbians, political liberals, doctors, scientists, formerly transgender teenagers (also known as “detransitioners”) and communicating the left-liberal resistance movement’s victories in the United Kingdom, which will help to discredit the tediously glib and inaccurate “Republicans pounce” narrative.

The South Dakota bill may or may not pass. But in any case, those who gave evidence signaled the beginning of a commonsense and, crucially, victim-led movement. One can only hope that more and more hearings like this will occur across the United States, creating a public record which, one way or another, will force the media to seriously engage.


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