Louisiana senator files anti-transgender legislation

Minors would be required to get parents’ consent to pursue therapy

Transgender
Trans Pride flags | Ted Eytan via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Louisiana Sen. Mike Fesi, R-Houma, has filed legislation that would require people under 18 years old to get written permission from their parents before pursuing medical care and mental health services based on their gender identity.

The bill would make it more difficult for transgender and gender nonconforming minors to get medical assistance if either of their parents didn’t accept their identity. If passed during the Louisiana legislative session that begins April 12 , it would take effect Aug. 1, 2021. 

It requires teens pursuing medical care and therapy related to gender identity to have explicit permission from at least one parent. If a child is under the care of a guardian, then that guardian would have to provide approval. 

Another parent could also block the treatment, even if that parent isn’t an active part of the child’s life.

Any parent would have the right to ask the court to prohibit gender identity care so long as their parental rights hadn’t been terminated — which is an extreme measure courts take very rarely. So even if a parent does not have custody of a child, that parent would be able to ask the court to block gender identity care, possibly over the objections of the parent who cares for the child full time. 

Doctors, therapists, counselors and other medical professionals who provided gender identity care to a minor without getting permission from the parent first could face civil and regulatory sanctions for doing so, under the bill.

The “gender therapy” that would require parental permission is defined in the bill as “counseling or psychotherapy treatment founded on the position that, regardless of a person possessing physical attributes of a certain gender at birth, no gender identity, expression or experience by that person is any more valid than any other.” It also includes hormone therapy and surgical procedures, according to the bill.

The legislation could have a broad impact. The Centers for Disease Control said as many as one in 50 high school students identify as transgender

“Transgender students are more likely than cisgender students to report violence victimization, substance abuse, and suicide risk,” writes the Centers for Disease Control on its website.

Dylan Waguespack, president of Louisiana Trans Advocates, opposes the legislation. He said the bill would be harmful to teenagers who are already at higher risk for suicide and other mental health issues. 

Waguespack said having a teacher or counselor affirm a transgender or gender nonconforming child’s identity can help reduce the risk that a teenager will harm themselves.

Even if the child or teenager was in counseling for another reason and brought up their gender identity, a medical profession couldn’t address those issues, unless a parent had given them permission to do so, Waguespack said.

Waguespack said it also creates a two-tier health care system for transgender and gender nonconforming minors. Those who have parents who are supportive of their identity will be able to access care. Those who don’t have supportive parents or guardians won’t be able to access care, he said.

“Care is going to be available to people who have support, but not to anyone else,” Waguespack said.

The transgender community has become a new focus of conservative religious groups. Waguespack said he expects more bills to be filed with transgender restrictions. 

Last year, two lawmakers filed bills aimed at keeping transgender children and teenagers out of youth sports competitions. The bills were never debated, possibly because the COVID-19 pandemic shut down last year’s lawmaking session for several weeks. 

Two of Louisiana’s neighbors — Arkansas and Mississippi — have also passed new state laws that include restrictions on transgender people this year. Around 20 states, overall, have considered transgender restrictions, according to the Associated Press.

Mississippi has a new law prohibiting transgender students from participating in girl and women’s sports programs — a law that’s likely to be challenged in court. Arkansas passed a similar law regarding sports — and its Gov. Asa Hutchinson is weighing whether to sign another bill that would outright ban all medical treatment related to gender identity for minors.