Tennessee Becomes Latest GOP-Led State To Ban Gender-Affirming Care

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) on Thursday made his state the last to ban gender-affirming health care — and the first to criminalize certain drag shows — after the state’s Republican-controlled legislature sent the bills to his desk had.

Health legislation prohibits minors from taking puberty blockers or hormone therapy and having surgeries with the aim of “enabling a minor to identify with, or live as a purported identity of, an alleged identity that is inconsistent with the minor’s gender.”

Physicians providing such care in Tennessee can be sued by a parent who has not consented to the treatment of their minor child. Such currently ongoing treatments must be discontinued by March 31, 2024.

Other Republican-led states passing similar bans include Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi and Utah. Additional bans are pending elsewhere in various state legislatures.

Tennessee law states that the legislature has determined gender-affirming nursing as “harmful” to minors and that it is “inconsistent with professional medical standards” — which is incorrect. In fact, the legislation goes against the advice of many professional medical associations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association, who say the treatments in question are safe and of great benefit.

Lee also cracked down on drag performances by banning “male or female impersonators” from putting on shows in public places or anywhere a minor could see them. A first offender can be charged with a misdemeanor, but subsequent offenses can be charged as felonies and carry years in prison.

While drag shows are generally performed for adult audiences, in recent years librarians and other organizers have seen strong community support for drag storytime events, which feature a queen reading children’s books aloud to encourage a love of reading .

Lee signed into law despite being confronted with a photo from his own 1977 high school yearbook that appears to show him in drag as a teenager. The governor called the hypocrisy allegation “ridiculous” at a press conference on Monday.

Tennessee Republicans, who wrote the bill banning gender-affirming nursing, claimed the treatments resulted in “sometimes fatal psychological consequences.”

However, they failed to recognize the consequences of denying gender-affirming care to minors. LGBTQ youth are known to have disproportionate rates of depression and suicidal thoughts, and providing them with ways to better express their gender identity has been linked to improved mental health.

“It has nothing to do with protecting children from unnecessary medical procedures,” Tennessee State Assemblyman Bo Mitchell (D) said of the law, according to The Tennessean. ”[Some children] can get their breast augmentation, their nose job, that’s fine, but these kids can’t have medical procedures?


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