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Tennessee bill bans double mastectomy on children seeking to change gender

A proposed bill in Tennessee would restrict a child’s ability to get an elective double mastectomy, be given puberty blockers or other procedures in an attempt to alter their gender.

Activists who support such surgery say the bill tramples on the rights of children. Others say the surgeries amount to abuse because a six-year-old is not emotionally or intellectually able to make such a  decision themselves. Children that have such surgeries have a much greater suicide risk.

The bills author agrees that biological little girls cannot make the decision to have their breasts removed.

The Youth Protection Act, House Bill 2835, specifically prohibits a child that has not reached puberty from getting hormone therapy or other dangerous gender alterations. It includes disfiguring surgeries. If the minor child has reached puberty they must get parental consent but many surgeons across the nation remain hesitant about elective double mastectomies because of the tremendous emotional cost.

“We have age restrictions on our youth for a number of different reasons that are there to protect them,” Tennessee state Rep. John Ragan, a Republican, stated. “These protections are multifaceted and across the board.”

The bill makes it illegal to perform procedures that would “facilitate the minor’s desire to present or appear in a manner that is inconsistent with the minor’s sex.”

“Scientifically, at a cellular level, one is either male or female,” Ragan said. “There’s no denying that, aside from some genetic malfunctions. But what some have decided is that what’s between their ears should conquer reality. The reality is that’s not true. One can identify as a bird, but when they step off the top floor of a building, they aren’t going to fly. The laws of physics will operate on them regardless of what they think.”

Once someone is above 18 years of age, that person can choose whether to accept reality or not, but while a child is growing and exploring different ways of existing in the world, committing to making a permanent medical alteration “is not the smartest thing to do,” Ragan said.

“There are claims that this reduces suicide rates, but as someone who’s earned a living with statistics, the statistics I’ve seen tell another story,” Ragan said.

‘A Higher Risk of Suicide’

Ragan shared one study that examined 324 sex-reassigned persons (191 male-to-females, 133 female-to-males) in Sweden that concluded that people “with transsexualism, after sex reassignment, have considerably higher risks for mortality, suicidal behavior, and psychiatric morbidity than the general population.”

The study defines transsexualism, or gender identity disorder, as a condition in which a person’s gender identity “contradicts his or her bodily sex characteristics.”

The function of childhood is to carry space for change, Ragan said.

“Children want to be many different things when they are growing up and many of them are unrealistic, but it’s a part of their imagination,” Ragan said. “However, when they insist a body alteration to go along with their mental picture, it’s going a step too far.”

The bill comes as transgender legislation takes many different forms across the nation, such as in Texas where Gov. Greg Abbott directed state agencies to investigate reports of transgendered children receiving surgeries or drugs as child abuse. This followed Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issuing an opinion (pdf) in which he classified surgical or drug treatment for children such as hormone therapy, puberty blockers, and other procedures like mastectomies or the removal of male genitalia as forms of child abuse.

–Wire services