What we don’t talk about

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported that the number of U.S. youth who identify as transgender has nearly doubled in the last several years. Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital in Tacoma saw pediatric cases jump from 59 in 2015 to 730 in 2022. In Washington, 23% of patients who received gender affirming care in 2022 were age 19 and under. Medical providers, school administrators, and lawmakers have scrambled to develop policies in light of this huge change in the cultural landscape.

In contrast, Sweden, the first nation to formally allow gender transition procedures in 1972, joined several other European nations last year in disallowing puberty blockers, hormone treatments, and surgeries for minors, citing lack of evidence about benefits and long-term risks. In 2022, England closed the “Tavistock Gender and Identity Development Service” over concerns that gender transitioning was proceeding too quickly without safeguards.

Puberty blockers, for instance, are often said to only pause puberty, but even clinics that recommend such treatment, such as the Mayo Clinic, admit to side-effects like osteoporosis, sterility, and “mood changes.” And surgery is clearly a permanent choice. Such treatment is said to alleviate the risk of suicide in troubled children, but there is little credible data to support this conclusion as suicide rates are also high among those who have transitioned. And there is a growing minority of “de-transitioners” who are highly critical of the movement.

How should we as a society proceed? Opinions vary widely. Twenty-two states have joined Sweden in passing restrictions on “gender affirming care” for minors while ten states, including Washington, have passed shield laws to “protect” children who may seek such care. Senate Bill 5599 provides that any youth who seeks gender affirming care can be sheltered without the usual parental notification. School district personnel are also prohibited from notifying parents who are unaware of their child’s status, calling notification dangerous. Rule 3211, created by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and adopted by the Puyallup School District and many others, provides that “the district will not condone… release of information regarding a student’s transgender or gender expansive status” in these circumstances.

Are we on the right path? Children are not allowed to purchase cigarettes, get a tattoo, or sign legal contracts. Should we allow “gender affirming care” which can include puberty blockers and even surgery, for minors, particularly without parental notification? Should we push a pause button?

The medical community has gotten it wrong in the past, particularly in the area of mental health. Sadly, the inventor of lobotomies was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1949. Lobotomizing suffering patients was seen as the standard of care for many issues in the 1940’s and 1950’s. We now see it as barbaric.

Minors who seek “gender affirming” treatment and transgender youth should be treated with respect and love. We should have unbiased counseling for them. We should be kind to everyone. But maybe it is time we took a careful look at the irreversible “treatments” we allow for minors. I have sponsored HB 2241, which would disallow cross-sex hormones, puberty blockers, and surgeries for minors in Washington. Let’s talk about this.

Rep. Cyndy Jacobsen, R-Puyallup represents Washington’s 25th Legislative District

State Representative Cyndy Jacobsen, 25th Legislative District
122E Legislative Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(253) 330-8466 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000