BOISE, Idaho — Idaho Rep. Bruce Skaug (R-Nampa) proposed a bill in the Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee Jan. 31 to ban gender-affirmation treatment for people under 18 year old.
This bill includes puberty blockers, hormone treatments, and gender-affirmation surgery. All would be punishable by felony for anyone supplying such treatments to minors, Rep. Skaug said in committee.
Anyone found guilty of such felony - if the bill were to become law - would face up to 10 years in prison, according to the bill. Rep. Skaug proposed a similar bill during the 2022 legislative session that aimed to make the proposed crime punishable up to life in prison; that bill died in the Senate.
"I will say children in Idaho are suffering from these procedures - so called therapies - having healthy body parts removed. Sometimes, that involves a girl of 15 having double mastectomy for sex change purposes," Rep. Skaug said.
However, LGBTQ+ youth have consistently had a greater risk for depression and suicide. According to The Trevor Project, a national nonprofit, states its mission is; “To end suicide among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning young people.” The project estimates that over 9,000 LGBTQ+ youth seriously consider suicide annually.
Additionally, the National Institute of Health compiled 27 studies and found of the nearly 8,000 patients who did have gender affirming surgeries - both male and female - 77 had regrets.
In support of Rep. Skaug's bill, detransitioned speaker Chloe Cole accepted an invitation from the Idaho Freedom Foundation - a self-described conservative think tank - to speak Thursday at the Idaho statehouse.
"Gender dysphoria really is a mental health issue and yet we're treating it with surgeries and physical interventions," Cole said. "There is not a single other mental health condition that we do the same with... and yet it's perfectly fine for children who wrongly feel they are the opposite sex to be mutilated and castrated."
Cole is an 18-year-old woman who regrets going through a failed transition to become a boy.
She grew up in Northern California's Central Valley. She realized at an early age she didn't feel like she fit in as a girl and began exploring the idea of transitioning at age 12, she said.
"My parents, especially my dad, initially objected to this and they wanted me to wait until I was 18 and responsible for myself to make the decision. But, their hand was forced by the doctors," Cole said. "They were told there really was no other option. None had been presented to them. [The doctors] said there was a less than 1-2 percent regret rate."
Cole started on puberty blockers at age 13 and had a mastectomy by the time she was 15, she said. She attributes a large part of her transition to the encouragement she received online. By the age of 16 - after her surgery - Cole began to doubt her transition, she told the statehouse audience.
She called her transition a mistake.
"I found out that I was being lied to not only by my doctors but also by this community," Cole said.
Cole's experience received sympathy from Preston Thomson. He is the father of a 16-year-old transgender girl. The Thomson's live in Idaho; however, their experience with gender transition runs contrary to that of Cole.
"If someone is trying to push [gender-affirming surgery] on [Chloe Cole], that is deplorable," Thomson said. "I don't know any parent, or very few even trans kids, who are trying to jump to a surgical intervention rout. We did not have pressure from the medical community at all."
When Thomson's daughter Lynn was just 6 years old, Thomson could tell she was not fitting into gender norms. Lynn knew it too.
"I could always feel it. I didn't get bad gender dysphoria until puberty started happening and it kept getting worse. When I was a little kid, I was always like, 'Huh?' about being a guy. I always felt more like a girl, but I didn't have the language or means to express what I meant by that," Lynn said.
Lynn has legally changed her name and gender, according to her father. Lynn is taking puberty blockers and estrogen hormones; however, surgery is not a current plan for Lynn.
Thomson understands some form of a gender-affirmation surgery is likely in Lynn future.
"I'll steal a line from another parent, 'The fact that my child is trans is probably one of the least interesting things about her when you get to know her.' She's a pretty amazing person," Thomson said. "It's been remarkable to see how much better she is feeling."
Lynn insists she was not pushed by anyone to transition her gender.
Under Rep. Skaug's bill, Lynn would not be able to receive her puberty blockers or hormone treatment. It would be a major step backwards for her mental health and well-being, according to the family.
"I would be very depressed, at best," Lynn said. "I don't wanna worry about bills forcing me to leave my state. I'm not prepared for what happens after that."
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