A Trans Activist’s Reflections from Nashville

This week, I traveled to the state capitol and had the honor of testifying against House Bill 001, which is a proposed bill to ban all gender-affirming healthcare for minors in the state. Currently, the decision to begin puberty blockers, hormones, or access top surgery (which is rarely performed on minors, and only those who are above 16), is a decision that is made between the child, their parents, their medical professionals, and licensed mental health providers. There are a lot of different thoughts and considerations that go into this bill, as it’s not just a black and white matter.

In my perspective, this bill violates individuals’ freedoms, as it targets thought patterns rather than the behavior itself, which Senator Jeff Yarbo commented on in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee on February 1st. Most laws focus on the behavior that is being done and forbids it, such as stealing, drug use, abuse, etc. All of the laws targeting these behaviors outlaw the acts in their entirety– you aren’t allowed to steal or abuse others in certain scenarios, you just aren’t allowed to do it. For the healthcare that is being discussed here, the proposed bill specifically differentiates between individuals who are seeking hormones and surgery for gender-affirming reasons and those who are seeking it for other medical reasons. In this case, the exact same procedure, such as taking testosterone, would be banned for a transgender teenager, but a cisgender teen attempting to access testosterone for other equally valid medical purposes, would still be allowed to access the medication. The difference between these two teens who are attempting to access the same care is their gender identity. This bill exclusively seeks to limit the behavior of transgender individuals specifically, which violates individual freedoms and is a pure, outright act of discrimination. 

There have been back and forth debates on if this proposed bill is or isn’t transphobic, with many supporters of the bill saying that they only want to keep kids safe and with more extreme stances being that gender-affirming care is experimental. The problem with this argument, however, is that the surgery, hormones, and puberty blockers offered to transgender minors would still be offered to cisgender minors. Legislation such as this threatens equality, because supporters of the bill do not want to do away with the medical treatments as a whole, but rather want to specifically take away the medical treatment from certain individuals that they deem as undeserving of the treatment, which is where the real discrimination lies. 

Vaniel testifying at the capitol on February 8th

It is notable that the first person to testify for the bill this past week was Matt Walsh, an online commentator, who at one point in his testimony remarked that not only did he think that minors shouldn’t be allowed gender-affirming care, but that gender-affirming care shouldn’t be offered to anyone under the age of 25, if ever. This highlights the prominent and real fear that transgender individuals of all ages have when bills such as these are discussed. We know that taking this care away from minors is only the beginning. We know that it is easier to take care away from those who already have the least rights, who are completely excluded from being represented in the legislature. Once this succeeds , it will be  much easier to slowly chip away the rights for others—transgender people 18-25 are also not well represented in politics, making them a vulnerable population for people to target their rights. 

I spoke against this bill because I am a transgender person who would have been affected by this bill 2 years ago, because my story and my life is in defiance with what this bill claims to be true. While it was an anxiety ridden experience, I also found community members along the way and met other wonderful and brave advocates who had also traveled to the capital to defend our rights. The bill did pass further, unfortunately, but it will not silence our voices and our stories. 

You can see the full hearing at: