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Transgender Bill in OK Sparks Protest and Pursuit of Answers

HB 2177, a new bill in Oklahoma banning “gender transition procedures” for minors and adults using insurance, passed on Feb. 28 in an 80-18 House vote despite a protest. One freshman political science major from Oklahoma Christian University, Chayton Reeves, attended the protest.

“I honestly went into the protest knowing the bill would be passed. […] However, I went because I believe all progress has to start somewhere, even if that’s forty people holding signs on the corner of the street,” Reeves said.

Reeves said after meeting many people from different backgrounds, all of whom were welcoming, it raised a question: “why does their gender or presentation matter so much more than who they are as a person?”

In KFOR’s article about the protest and subsequent arrest, the bill’s author, Kevin West, gave a reason for producing it.

“They [trans-youth] need compassionate, effective, mental health care,” West said.

Jim Olsen, R-Roland, also commented on the bill.

“Up to this point, I think we can safely say there’s not enough evidence to put our children out on a huge experiment,” Olsen said.

However, a history of transgender health care appears to contradict the statement, at least in procedures for adults.

Transgender operations began in the 1920’s. Although medical knowledge, technology and practices progressed over time, the procedure’s efficacy and health risks were called into question and banned by Medicare’s coverage in the 80’s, calling it too “experimental”. However, by 2014, advancements in medical science deemed the operations safe enough via a federal board ruling to lift the 33-year ban and dismantle Medicare’s ability to automatically deny coverage requests.

Limitations against providing such services to minors in particular began cropping up seven years later in April 2021, as Arkansas became the first state to “prohibit doctors from providing gender confirming hormone therapy, puberty blockers or gender-confirmation surgeries or from referring patients to other health care providers.”

Now, as of Feb. 21, 2023, six states ban gender-affirming care while 27 bills in other states seek to restrict care for transgender youth, Oklahoma included, according to a Bloomberg Law article.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re 18 or younger – if you cannot afford health care, then you do not have the opportunity to stay in Oklahoma and live your life,” Rep Mauree Turner, D-OKC, said in KFOR’s article.

Reeves was looking into transitioning when the bill passed.

“Over the past several weeks, bills have been passed that are an attempt to harm people who are transgender and gender nonconforming,” Reeves said.

But how much of an effect do such bills really have?

According to a 2022 UCLA report, almost one in five people who identify as transgender are ages 13-17, while the total number of Americans over age 13 who identify as transgender is 1.6 million. A CBS article places the varying cost of surgeries between $7,000 and $50,000. Those costs range from 7.1% to 51% of the $97,962 average U.S. income in 2021, assuming the bills make individuals pay out of pocket.

Minors rarely make such figures and, in the instance of Oklahoma’s new bill, organizations receiving state funds are banned from providing procedures with violators losing their funds for at least a year.

“When we have health care students write narrative after narrative about how they’re afraid of what they can do so they are already looking at options outside the state, we are creating a health care drain,” Turner said.

As for the physical and mental health claims of such bills, there are various studies that can be examined (“Gender-affirming hormones and surgery in transgender children and adolescents,” “Gender affirming medical care of transgender youth,” and more), though the studies say some subjects remain too scarce in medical literature for adequate conclusions to be made.

In addition to the politics and legality of such procedures, there are many different aspects to the discussion of this subject.

According to Reeves, more aspects apply to people who are transgender or gender nonconforming than solely their gender identity.

“I am gender nonconforming, but I am so much more than that,” Reeves said. “I am a friend, a student, a partner and a team member. I have so many other qualities that make me the person that I am.”

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