Thursday, April 4, 2024

Trans Adults On Edge As Legislatures...

Broaden focus beyond children

Story by Casey Parks
February 15, 2024

Medical school is hard enough, but Charlie Adams’s existence was on the line, so he took a day off from clinic rotations in Kansas City and drove three hours to the Missouri Capitol.

Charlie Adams
Republican legislators had proposed nine bills to restrict transgender rights. Two sought to limit the definition of sex. Another gave doctors the right to discriminate against trans people. And four aimed to keep them out of the bathrooms that match their identities.

Adams, 27, has a full beard and a deep voice, and as he spoke recently to a committee of legislators, a patch of chest hair peeked out from his navy blue scrubs.

“Do you want to see me in the women’s restroom next time you’re at the hospital?” he asked.

Adams spoke for two minutes, thanked the legislators, then scurried out. He had eight more bills to fight.

The legislation in Missouri is part of a record number of proposals that could significantly reshape the way transgender people live their lives. Republican-dominated legislatures have already enacted more than 100 laws to limit LGBTQ+ rights over the past few years, but most affected adolescents and schools. Now, policymakers are increasingly turning their focus to adults.

Lawmakers in Iowa, West Virginia and other states have introduced bans on transgender people using bathrooms that align with their gender identity. Officials elsewhere are attempting to narrowly define sex in a way that will leave trans people misgendered on official documents. The head of Florida’s Department of Motor Vehicles announced in late January that the agency will no longer allow trans adults to change the gender markers on their licenses and threatened criminal charges for those who don’t comply.

So far, no legislature has outright prohibited adults from transitioning, but last year, Florida passed the nation’s first health-care restrictions for trans adults, and some within the Republican Party believe other states will soon follow its lead. A handful of legislators have said they don’t believe in the care or hope to eradicate it completely.

The lawmakers pushing the bills universally contend there should be limits on how far society goes to embrace transgender adults. Some do not believe in the concept of having a gender identity different from one’s biological sex.

“There is no such thing as gender-affirming care,” Ohio state Sen. Kristina Roegner (R) said in a January speech on the Senate floor. “You can’t affirm something that doesn’t exist.”

Adams said he is “overwhelmed, scared and angry.”

“Even if most of the proposed bills don’t pass, the constant vilifying of us is already doing damage,” Adams said. “I used to think if I could get into the rooms and organizations I’m in now, if I could only share the stories of all the amazing trans people I know, and if they got to know me as a colleague, they would understand we’re just people and our rights are worth protecting. But I’m learning lately that that may not be enough.

Still, trans Ohioans say they fear lawmakers will try again. Republican legislators tried three times to pass a health-care ban for adolescents before ultimately succeeding in late December.

“This is far from the end,” Ogden, of Trans Allies of Ohio, said.

None of the nine Missouri bills have become law yet, but late last month, while Adams was working a rotation, a committee passed a measure that would allow doctors to refuse to treat trans patients. Of all the bills that target adults, Adams said that one might hurt the most.

“We take an oath,” Adams said. “I would without hesitation treat any person regardless of their beliefs, and I did when I worked in the ER. It hurts that even though all my intentions are good, even for someone who hates me, and I’d never want them denied care, they are trying to make it legal for people to deny me care.”

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