'Could be very detrimental.' Parents voice concerns over bill that would ban transgender youth medical care - East Idaho News

‘Could be very detrimental.’ Parents voice concerns over bill that would ban transgender youth medical care

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IDAHO FALLS — Three Idaho mothers say a transgender youth medical care bill that has passed the Idaho House, could be “detrimental” to kids in the state if it becomes law.

House Bill 71 entails banning transgender care for Idaho minors, including hormone therapy, “puberty blocker” medications and surgeries. It would make medical care for gender dysphoria in youth a felony. The penalty? Potentially up to 10 years in prison.

RELATED | Idaho House passes transgender youth medical care bill

“I think that’s asinine. I think that’s downright dangerous,” said Annalee Kelly, a mother from Idaho Falls.

Kelly is married and has a total of four kids. One of her children, Aiden, 20, is transgender. EastIdahoNews.com spoke to Aiden in 2019. He was a teen when he started to transition.

Annalee’s son, Aiden. | Courtesy Annalee Kelly

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“I think they are using blanket bans. I think that using blanket bans on treatments disrupts medically necessary care for trans youth and I think decisions about medical treatments for kids whether it’s transgender care or not, should not be made by politicians,” Kelly said of the bill. “I think the government should not be involved in that. I think it should be made by the patients, the families and medical providers.”

Rep. Bruce Skaug, R-Nampa, is the bill’s sponsor. According to reporting by the Idaho Capital Sun, on the House floor back in February, Skaug said House Bill 71 is “not a religious crusade” but was “following the science.”

The article said Skaug likened gender-affirming care for trans youth to eugenics, the pharmaceutical opioid crisis and “other things that were popular in medical circles … that now we know were evil, outright evil,” he said.

The AP wrote that he said the legislation was needed to “protect children” and that puberty blockers and hormone treatment could cause permanent harm. 

The bill passed in the Idaho House on a near party-line vote. Mountain Home Rep. Matthew Bundy was the only Republican to vote against the bill. Opponents said it would likely increase suicide rates among teens.

RELATED | Idaho House passes ban on gender-affirming medical care

As a teen, Kelly said her son Aiden, was on the floor crying for weeks and had said that he didn’t want to stay in his body and that he did not want to live anymore.

Kelly and her husband are active Latter-day Saint church members and conservative. She remembers what her bishop had told her a few years ago.

“I would rather have a transgender son than a dead daughter,” she recalls her bishop saying. “So that changed everything for me. I thought he’s right. I can’t hang on to these archaic notions that I need to wait until he is 18 if he wants to change these major things about his body.”

She said he is currently living in Arizona and he is thriving.

Chelsie Fortune and her family
Chelsie Fortune and her family. | Courtesy Chelsie Fortune

Chelsie Fortune, a Rexburg mother, says HB 71 and the reality of it, if it passes in the senate, could cause harm.

“I know for my son, it’s terrifying for him, like the thought of losing his access to hormone therapy. That is truly lifesaving for him and that could be very detrimental,” Fortune explained.

Fortune has a 17-year-old named Charles. He has socially transitioned, meaning he dresses masculinely and has had a legal name change.

“When he was about 15, we sought medical treatment because his gender dysphoria was pretty significant and he was not handling that very well. I knew it was time to start helping more,” Fortune said.

Charles (right) with his sister. | Courtesy Chelsie Fortune

She sought medical professionals for help and said they are compassionate people and are very educated. Charles does hormone therapy that has helped drop his voice, which sounds more masculine.

“I just firmly believe that when it comes to medical situations, the people who know the most about it, would be the medical professionals paired with the parents. It just comes down to parents rights and best practices,” Fortune said. “We haven’t done any of the gender-affirming surgeries. You actually can’t get those in Idaho.”

She has noticed a night and day difference with her son. Before he socially transitioned, he was sad and closed off. Now, he participates in social gatherings and has become more outspoken.

“Transgender care really is lifesaving care,” Fortune said.

Another mother in Eagle, has two sons. One is a cancer survivor, Spencer, 21, and the other, Beckett, 23, is transgender.

new family photo for Shauna
Shauna Jones and her family. | Courtesy Shauna Jones

Shauna Jones said when Spencer was two-years-old, he had cancer. He started having secondary effects when he was around six. Doctors talked to Jones about puberty blockers to help treat some of those medical symptoms.

“They said they are very safe and very effective and he can go on them for years and then we can take him off, and he will continue puberty afterward. It was presented to us as incredibly safe and not something to be concerned about,” she said.

Spencer ended up not needing the puberty blockers, but Jones said she was glad it was an option. She says it’s upsetting to see what’s happening with HB 71.

“It feels very disingenuous now to hear legislators and politicians saying that it’s safe for cisgender kids and not for transgender kids,” she said.

She has also participated in the meetings at the capitol building in Boise.

“I sat in the house committee meeting for HB 71 and I heard someone say, no parent should be able to make a decision that sterilizes their child,” she recalls. “That was particularly painful for me as a parent of a childhood cancer survivor who is sterile from his treatment. Parents have to make those kinds of decisions every day, really hard decisions that can impact their children’s life in big ways.”

She said for Beckett, he was suicidal as a teenager. She said she didn’t know if he would survive in high school because his depression and anxiety were so severe. Jones said he got counseling for several years.

Jones, like the other mothers, said gender-affirming care saved his life.

picture of Beckett
Shauna’s son Beckett. | Courtesy Shauna Jones

“Taking that away from trans youth will cost lives and that is my biggest concern,” she said.

Jones, Kelly, and Fortune said they would want Skaug to meet their transgender children and get to know them.

“I want to believe that he (Skaug) really thinks that he is doing the best thing for kids. I wonder how many transgender people he knows?” Jones said. “I would love for Bruce to sit down with families. I would love for him to see that Beckett and other trans kids are just like everyone else, and they are amazing.”

EastIdahoNews.com has contacted Skaug, and other co-sponsors of the bill for comment since Wednesday but has not heard back from them. EastIdahoNews.com will update this article if we do hear back from them.

Statement from Idaho Freedom Caucus
Full statement from the Idaho Freedom Caucus

Maria Nate, the Idaho director of the State Freedom Caucus Network, provided a statement from the Idaho Freedom Caucus in support of HB 71. The statement said in part, “The Caucus recognizes the importance of protecting vulnerable children and condemns doctors and counselors who violate their Hippocratic oath of ‘do no harm.’ The Idaho Constitution Article 3 Section 24 states, “The legislature should further all wise and well directed efforts for the promotion of temperance and morality.”

“The caucus believes it is immoral for adults to guide children into life-altering decisions when those children are too young to consent to have their rights taken away.”

Jones said she will be attending the committee meeting hearing on Friday at 1 p.m. There are nine committee members that will have to discuss if HB 71 will get to the Senate floor.

“It’s terrifying. I know a lot of families are looking to move out of state if this passes, which is really a tragedy,” Jones said.