Today, the Tennessee House of Representatives passed two bills attacking LGBTQ+ rights, including one that bans gender-affirming care for transgender minors and requires transgender youth to detransition by March 2024.
The other bill bans drag performances in any place where minors might be present.
The health care ban now passes to Governor Bill Lee (R), who has supported anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in the past. He has also signaled that he is “supportive” of this bill. Should the healthcare ban become law, the ACLU has already threatened to sue.
Both bills will become law even if the governor doesn’t sign them.
H.B. 1 – the first bill filed this year because Republicans wanted voters to know that this is their top priority -bans treatments like puberty blockers and hormone replacement therapy for people under the age of 18, forcing transgender youth to go through the puberty of their sex assigned at birth and exacerbating gender dysphoria. Puberty blockers are reversible treatments used to delay the permanent effects of puberty so that trans youth, their families, and their doctors can understand their identities better. In a recent survey, 16.9% of trans youth reported that they ever wanted pubertal suppression; of them, 2.5% received it.
Cisgender youth can use the same medications for other conditions under the legislation. Rather than banning a treatment for being too dangerous, the bill forbids certain people from using them.
The Tennesseean reports that the bill takes effect this summer and gives trans youth until March 31, 2024, to end their current medical treatment.
“These treatments and procedures have a lifetime of negative consequences that are irreversible,” said state Rep. William Lamberth (R) incorrectly.
Democrats said that medical treatment should be left to trans people and their doctors and should not be legislated.
“This body should not be telling physicians what to do,” said state Rep. Gloria Johnson (D). “We do not need to get in the business of legislating health care.”
“It has nothing to do with protecting children from unnecessary medical procedures,” said state Rep. Bo Mitchell (D). “[Minors] can get their breast enhancements, their nose jobs, that’s OK, but these children can’t have any medical procedures?”
The bill became a priority for state Republicans after anti-transgender extremist and Daily Wire writer Matt Walsh falsely claimed that the Vanderbilt University Medical Center was trying to “castrate, sterilize, and mutilate minors.” Consequently, this false narrative led to an unnecessary bill being prioritized by state Republicans, who ignored the facts and sought to spread fear instead. Bottom surgery is not performed on minors, but that didn’t stop 62 Republican state representatives from signing a letter condemning such surgeries on children.
The moral panic led to a rally – complete with anti-LGBTQ+ hate groups and the white nationalist Proud Boys – that 1500 to 3000 people attended called the “Rally to End Child Mutilation.” Even one of the state’s U.S. senators – Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) – attended, and people held signs calling for death of doctors who provide gender-affirming care while others said “hellfire awaits” LGBTQ+ people.
“Decisions about transgender medical care should be made between trans patients, their doctors, and their families. Politicians have no business deciding these personal matters by enforcing blanket bans that defy professional guidance from every major medical and mental health association in the country,” said Trevor Project Advocacy and Government Affairs Vice President Kasey Suffredini. “We urge the governor to reject this harmful bill and, instead, work to expand access to best-practice medical care for young people across Tennessee.”
H.B. 9, the drag ban, classifies “male and female impersonators” as adult cabaret performers and bans “adult-oriented performances that are harmful to minors.”
The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Chris Todd (R), has said that drag shows are “child abuse” and fought against a Pride drag show in his district in the past.
“I continue to hear from Madison Countians APPALLED at the possibility of a drag queen show in Conger Park,” he wrote on Facebook about a local drag show this past October. “I share your shock and sentiment. If Mayor Conger or City officials have approved (allowed) this event, then they are clearly ignoring the law. I intend to see that the law is upheld!”
Opponents of the bill have said that it is so broadly written that the law could target pro wrestling and pop stars. One Democratic lawmaker pointed out that Tennessee already bans obscenity in public and in front of minors, so actual obscene performances by drag artists are already illegal in public.
“If you’re being obscene in front of children, it is already illegal, correct? If you’re wearing lederhosen and being obscene in front of children, you’ll be arrested, correct?” state Rep. Gloria Johnson (D) said.
LGBTQ+ organizations denounced the bill.
“By passing House Bill 9, the Tennessee legislature has done nothing but spread hate, misinformation, and extremism,” said Human Rights Campaign Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “Rather than focus on actual policy issues facing Tennesseans, politicians would rather spend their time and effort misconstruing age-appropriate performances at a library to pass as many anti-LGBTQ+ bills as possible. Dangerous rhetoric like this has real consequences – prejudiced-inspired bills only rile up an extremist base and normalize violence against the LGBTQ+ community, especially transgender and nonbinary people. We urge Governor Lee to veto this discriminatory bill.”