Transgender student, educator oppose bill banning some surgeries, hormone therapy
ATHENS, Ga. (WUPA) -- A local school where queer and transgender students can thrive is speaking out against SB 140, the proposed bill that would prohibit doctors in Georgia from performing some gender-affirming surgeries and from giving hormone treatments to transgender youth who are under the age of 18.
Gray, 15, a transgender teen, said they needed a safe learning environment outside of the public school system, so they joined Our Resilient Community, a queer-centered agile learning center.
"Educators are awesome. The community is awesome. It's so supportive," Gray said, recalling their journey of learning to embrace their gender identity. "I came out as transgender when I was 12, and I started hormone blockers when I was 14."
Thea Canby, an instructor at Our Resilient Community, described it as a place of acceptance and a space where queer and transgender youth can learn and thrive.
"We set goals, and we help them achieve those goals, whatever they are, whether academic or socioemotional or passion-driven goals," she said.
The students and staff members are on edge, as state lawmakers look to pass SB 140, which would restrict access to gender-affirming care to people under 18. An amendment to the bill also states that doctors could face criminal charges for violating the law once passed.
"We have a lot of trans students who are receiving the care that SB 140 is targeting, and then we have younger students who would be receiving that care who will be the most impacted by this bill. The kids who have received hormone replacement therapy, their lives are much easier, because they are going through the puberty that aligns with who they are," Canby said. "It's stressful, scary, and honestly, a lot of trans people and parents of trans people are looking around the state and saying, 'Is Georgia the place for us?'"
Gray said they don't believe people are prepared for what could happen.
"If this passes, there will be death from this," they said. "It's gonna hurt a lot of kids, and I don't think people are prepared for that."
Several organizations, including the Southern Poverty Law Center Action Fund, Georgia Equality, ACLU of Georgia, Progress Georgia, and the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, held a press conference on Friday, condemning the bill.
Cory Isaacson, legal director of ACLU Georgia, said the organization could take legal action if the Senate passes the bill next week.
"SB 140 is not only wrong from a policy and public health standpoint, it's also legally wrong," Isaacson said.
State Rep. Ginny Ehrhart (R-Marietta) read a story that had been shared by a de-transitioned man before Thursday's House vote.
"He says, "I was told that my transgender feelings were permanent, immutable, physically deep-seated in my brain, and could never change, and that that was the only way I could ever find peace was to transition to female. The problem is, I don't have those feelings anymore," Erhart read.
Several Republican lawmakers stressed how certain transgender surgeries are irreversible and said youth should be 18 and older before they are allowed to make the decision to have them.
"We are charged with protecting our most vulnerable population in the state. Senate Bill 140 does just that, by establishing guardrails to ensure that children who are struggling with identity issues are not rushed into decisions that would alter their bodies forever," said State Rep. Josh Bonner (R-Fayetteville).
Canby said transgender children go through a lengthy process before surgery is considered as an option.
"The regret rate is very low, because there are a lot of steps that you have to go through to access this care," Canby said. "Parents have to be on board. You have to have therapists."
State Rep. Teri Anulewica (D-Smyrna) was among the Democrats who spoke against the bill.
"To the children out there who know that they are being discussed in such an intimate way, know that you are loved, know that you are valued," she said.
The Senate could vote on SB 140 as early as the next floor session on March 20, 2023.
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