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West Virginia Republicans want to prevent suicidal transgender youth from receiving care

Wes Virginia House Speaker Roger Hanshaw transgender youth gender affirming parent want proper care
Perry Bennett/West Virginia Legislature; Shutterstock

GOP lawmakers in West Virginia are pushing to overturn an exception that allows transgender youth at risk of self-harm or suicide to receive gender-affirming care.

After banning gender-affirming care for minors last year, Republican lawmakers in West Virginia are pushing to overturn an exception that allows transgender youth to still receive the treatment if they are at risk of self harm or suicide.

The House Health and Human Resources Committee advanced a bill Friday that would ban hormone therapy and puberty blockers without exceptions, the Associated Press reports, eliminating an existing narrow exception and completely banning gender-affirming care for youth.

Currently, transgender minors in the state can receive such care with parental consent only after two separate medical professionals diagnose them with severe gender dysphoria and provide written testimony that medical intervention is necessary to prevent self-harm.

Before voting on the bill, Republican House Speaker Roger Hanshaw denied a request to speak at the public hearing from Fairness West Virginia, the state’s only LGBTQ+ advocacy organization, and the chamber did not hear testimony from patients or providers of gender-affirming care in the state. The committee also rejected a motion from Democrat Mike Pushkin that would have allowed those already receiving such treatment to continue.

“The argument for this bill is that these are irreversible decisions made by minors, but that’s not true,” Pushkin told the committee, according to the outlet. “This type of treatment is reversible — what isn’t reversible is suicide.”

When the House of Delegates banned gender-affirming care last year, Republican Senate Majority Leader Tom Takubo, a physician, added the amendment that allowed the exception for those at risk of self-harm. Takubo cited over a dozen peer-reviewed studies showing that access to gender-affirming care decreases suicide rates among transgender youth.

The American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, the World Medical Association, and the World Health Organization all agree that gender-affirming care is evidence-based and medically necessary not just for adults but minors as well.

With Takubo's opposition, it is unclear if the exception will successfully be overturned. The American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia has vowed to take legal action if the bill goes through, writing on Twitter/X: “If this bill becomes law, we’ll see the state in court."

If you or someone you know needs mental health support, please call, text, or chat with the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline or visit988lifeline.org for 24/7 access to free and confidential services. Trans Lifeline, designed for transgender or gender-nonconforming people, can be reached at (877) 565-8860, and also also provides resources to help with other crises, such as domestic violence situations. The Trevor Project Lifeline, for LGBTQ+ youth (ages 24 and younger), can be reached at (866) 488-7386. Users can also access chat services at TheTrevorProject.org/Help or text START to 678678.

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Ryan Adamczeski

Ryan is a staff writer at the Advocate, and a graduate of New York University Tisch's Department of Dramatic Writing, with a focus in television writing and comedy. She first became a published author at the age of 15 with her YA novel 'Someone Else's Stars', and is now a member of GALECA, the LGBTQ+ society of entertainment critics. In her free time, Ryan likes watching New York Rangers hockey, listening to the Beach Boys, and practicing witchcraft.
Ryan is a staff writer at the Advocate, and a graduate of New York University Tisch's Department of Dramatic Writing, with a focus in television writing and comedy. She first became a published author at the age of 15 with her YA novel 'Someone Else's Stars', and is now a member of GALECA, the LGBTQ+ society of entertainment critics. In her free time, Ryan likes watching New York Rangers hockey, listening to the Beach Boys, and practicing witchcraft.