Shaw: Kill the anti-transgender bill in North Dakota

"We wouldn’t deny children proper treatment for cancer or heart problems, and we shouldn’t deny treatment for gender dysphoria," columnist Jim Shaw writes.

Jim Shaw
Jim Shaw

Here we go again. The North Dakota Legislature getting involved in culture wars with legislation that is uncalled for, unnecessary and dangerous. Not content with killing a valuable sex education program, banning effective treatment for COVID-19 and prohibiting the teaching of critical race theory (when it was not being taught anyway), the target now is the transgender community.

Newly-elected Republican Reps. Brandon Prichard and Lori VanWinkle want to ban effective treatments for transgender minors. One bill would prohibit North Dakota doctors from performing sex reassignment surgeries, or from prescribing puberty blockers or hormone treatment for transgender young people. Doctors in violation could be sent to prison for 10 years.

The state Senate has shown a greater affinity this year for proposed property tax reductions, while the House of Representatives and Gov. Doug Burgum have favored plans to slash income tax.
The governor cited his administration’s Vision Zero initiative to reduce traffic deaths as a reason for his veto.
Senate Bill 2231 would bar school districts and their governing boards from creating policies to accommodate transgender students unless parents give explicit permission.
The bills have prompted library displays of books that might be banned, as well as "read-in" protests and libraries' informational sessions about their policies.
Bill is tied to lawmakers who are landlords to the state, notably a representative who co-owns a building leased by the late attorney general and involved in a cost overrun uncovered last year.
Sen. Jeff Magrum, R-Hazelton, brought several bills dealing with CO2 pipelines and eminent domain in response to Summit Carbon Solutions’ proposed CO2 pipeline.
House Bill 1140 by Rep. Bernie Satrom, R-Jamestown, said his inspiration for the bill came after watching a film on Netflix.
Republican opponents of the bill said parents should be responsible for providing their children with lunches at school.
Prosecutors and a defense attorney argued the bill could create unintended consequences.

“This bill will cause a lot of harm and we will lose lives,” Dr. Gabriela Balf told me on KFGO Radio. “The rate of suicides, which is already high, will increase.” Balf is a Bismarck psychiatrist and part-time professor at the University of North Dakota, who treats adolescents with gender dysphoria.

“This bill is not only dangerous, but it goes against medical science,” said Katrina Jo Koesterman, president of Tristate Transgender. “If passed, we will see a number of deaths, probably suicide-related deaths of some of our transgender and nonbinary youth because it will add to the atmosphere of hostility that our youth face. It will also lead to an exodus of LGBTQ families from North Dakota.”

Sex reassignment surgeries for people under 18 are not done in North Dakota. Hormone treatment and prescribing puberty blockers are done. However, those treatments are only conducted with the approval of parents. Moreover, puberty blockers are reversible.


These treatments are necessary. Gender dysphoria is a reality. Some young people might physically be male or female, but mentally, they are just the opposite. “It’s like waking up one day and realizing you have two left feet,” Koesterman said. “I realized I had more in common with my female friends. It was a realization of who I wasn’t.”

Puberty blockers and hormone treatment are recommended for minors by highly respected medical groups, such as the American Medical Association and the American Association of Pediatrics.

The AMA calls legislation that prohibits medically-necessary gender transition care for minor patients “a dangerous intrusion into the practice of medicine.” The AMA says, “We believe it is inappropriate and harmful for any state to legislatively dictate that certain transition-related services are never appropriate.”

This legislation is an attempt to fix a problem that doesn’t exist. “Through our database of 2,000 people, there’s never been a problem,” Balf said.

We wouldn’t deny children proper treatment for cancer or heart problems, and we shouldn’t deny treatment for gender dysphoria. Decisions on medical care should be made by doctors, patients and their parents. The Legislature should stay out of it.

This bill is not motivated by science or medicine, but by hate, bigotry and ignorance. It must be defeated.

Correction: Andrea Rebsom, the sexual abuse victim I wrote about two weeks ago, did not turn to drugs and alcohol after being sexually assaulted. I am sorry for the misunderstanding.

Shaw is a former WDAY TV reporter and former KVRR TV news director.


This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.


Opinion by Jim Shaw
InForum columnist Jim Shaw is a former WDAY TV reporter and former KVRR TV news director.
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