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.
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.
“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.