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Georgia, Kentucky Lawmakers Target Trans Youth

Ginny Ehrhart and Savannah Maddox
From left: Ginny Ehrhart and Savannah Maddox

They want to keep transgender kids from receiving transition treatment, which they call abusive. Advocates for trans rights beg to differ.

Two legislators in Southern states want to prevent minors from undergoing gender-confirmation procedures, with both citing the battle between a Texas transgender girl's parents over whether the child can transition.

In Georgia, Rep. Ginny Ehrhart is preparing a bill that would make it a felony for medical professionals to assist with a minor's transition in any way, such as performing surgery or providing drugs, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

And in Kentucky, Rep. Savannah Maddox wrote in a recent Facebook post that she "began drafting a bill designed to protect children under the age of 18 from gender reassignment surgery or from receiving drug treatments designed to alter their natal gender," without giving specifics on how the legislation would do that.

Ehrhart's bill would make it a crime for medical personnel to provide "mastectomy, vasectomy, castration and other forms of genital mutilation" or "puberty-blocking drugs to stop or delay normal puberty and cross-sex hormone therapy (administering testosterone to female children and estrogen to male children)," according to a press release issued Wednesday.

The lawmaker says she may add a provision to punish parents who participate in their child's transition, according to the Journal-Constitution. Georgia law currently requires parental consent for transition treatment.

"We are talking about children who have not reached the legal age of consent yet are being subjected to life-altering, irreversible surgeries and drug treatments that render them sterile and permanently disfigured," she said in the release. "The psychological damage this does to innocent children must come to an end. This legislation makes such abusive actions criminal."

Also in the release, she called transition procedures a "form of child abuse," echoing what U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz said about the case in his state.

Ehrhart told the Atlanta paper that the Texas case motivated her legislation; the mother supports transition for the child, who was assigned male at birth, and her ex-husband does not. The parents share custody, and a jury recently OK'd the mother's plan for the child's transition -- wearing typical girls' clothing, being called by her preferred name and pronouns, and so forth.

There are usually no medical interventions for a child so young, with those coming in a person's teens or later. Texas state officials, opposing the transition, are now investigating the case.

Ehrhart, a Republican from the Atlanta suburbs in Cobb County, was elected in 2018 over Democrat Jen Slipakoff, who frequently spoke about her trans daughter during the campaign, the Journal-Constitution notes. Ehrhart's predecessor in the office is her husband, Earl Ehrhart, an opponent of trans rights who held the seat for 30 years and decided to retire last year.

Kentucky's Maddox, in her Facebook post, called the matter of the Texas trans child a "shocking case."

"I am a strong advocate for parent's rights -- but it is not the right of a parent to permanently alter a child's gender or identity, even when based upon certain behaviors or the perceptions of a child's mind which has not yet had time to fully develop," she wrote.

Advocates for trans rights spoke out in support of access to transition procedures.

Ehrhart's idea is "shameful," Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality, told the Journal-Constitution. "This legislation would criminalize decisions that are made carefully within families in consultation with medical professionals and mental health professionals," he said.

"Supporting children in recognizing their gender identity is not only humane, it saves lives and strengthens families," Graham continued.

The Southern Poverty Law Center's Action Fund also condemned the proposed legislation. "State Rep. Ginny Ehrhart's proposal reflects a stunning lack of knowledge, coupled with an enormous amount of prejudice," said a statement released by Beth Littrell, SPLC Action Fund senior staff attorney. "Not only does it contradict the overwhelming medical consensus on treating gender dysphoria by professional medical organizations such as the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association, among many others, but it also puts children at risk of irreparable harm."

A Facebook user named Jackson Kleinbasch commented on Maddox's post, saying, "As one with a Masters in Science in Adolescent Education, parent of a transgender teen who is an honor student and volunteers more than any of the 762 students in her grade, and spouse of a two-time veteran, I can tell you that your ignorance is such a shame."

"My kid, upon the age of 3, was identifying as the gender opposite than assigned at birth," the user shared on the page. "Gender is not determined by what is between one's legs, but by the brain. This bill is horrendous and wrong.

"And your support for it is detestable."

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