‘Imagine being a young trans person:’ Senate Bill 140 raises mental health concerns

Published: Mar. 22, 2023 at 4:32 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Doctors and youth support groups are speaking out against a bill that passed the Georgia legislature banning gender affirming healthcare.

“By making this bill you’re actually harming people.”

Senate Bill 140 is expected to be law soon. The bill sponsored by Statesboro Senator Billy Hickman will ban gender affirming healthcare like gender change surgeries and hormone treatment in people younger than 18.

“I don’t believe that someone under 18 has the mental ability to decide for the rest of their life that they want to make that type of change,” Sen. Billy Hickman said.

While gender reassignment surgery is rare in youth, hormone treatment is often prescribed. It’s used by someone who wants to identify as either non-binary or as a different gender than they were born.

“This is really taking power of out the hands of not just the patient but really the patient’s parents.”

Starland Family Practice offers hormone treatment to their patients as young as 16 and doctors are worried about a mental health decline in many of their LGBTQ+ patients if this bill goes into affect.

56 percent of transgender youth attempted suicide and 86 percent reported suicidality, according to a 2022 study by the National Institutes of Health.

“It is common that they present with other adjustment disorders, or mood disorders like depression or anxiety and it almost always gets better when you treat the gender dysphoria,” Dr. Raymond Martins said.

“I believe that if a child is going through some of this then they need psychological help. But to have a surgery altering change or either the drugs I don’t believe in that.”

Hoping to stop this bill, just over a dozen young people with Savannah non-profit Deep Center which offers transgender support, went to the Capitol Wednesday to explain why they feel it’s harmful.

“Imagine being a young trans person and watching legislators debate whether or not you deserve to exist or that they know what’s best for you as opposed to your parents or you,” Coco Guthrie said.

If Governor Brian Kemp signs this bill, doctors who still provide treatment must appear before the Georgia Medical Board, according to Hickman. It’s not clear what their punishment will be.