The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Constitution and Limited Government held a hearing Thursday on “the dangers and due process violations of ‘gender-affirming care’ for children.”
Present at the hearing were six witness, each speaking to a different aspect of the debate surrounding the provision of “gender-affirming care” to minors.
Paula Scanlon, a former NCAA swimmer at the University of Pennsylvania, shared her experience as a teammate of transgender swimmer Lia Thomas.
Chloe Cole, a 19-year-old female who de-transitioned after receiving “gender-affirming care” as a child, spoke to the ways she was harmed by the medical community’s insistence upon pushing herself and her parents in the direction of hormonal interventions.
Dr. Jennifer Bauwens, Director of the Center for Family Studies, spoke to some of the research that has been done surrounding transgenderism in children, as well as the medical interventions that are commonly pursued when a child expresses symptoms of “gender dysphoria.”
May Mailman, Senior Fellow at the Independent Women’s Law Center, addressed some of the legal questions surrounding transgenderism in minors, including concerns over Title IX and the sanctity of women’s sports.
Shannon Minter, Legal Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, speaking as a transgender individual himself, addressed a range of legal, medical, and ethical topics relating to the provision of “gender-affirming care” to children.
Myriam Reynolds, the mother of a transgender child, shared her experience as a parent facing the challenges and difficult decisions associated with having a child express a belief that he or she is transgender.
From the start of the hearing, it was clear that lawmakers were deeply divided along partisan lines. Democrat members of the Committee repeatedly spoke derogatorily of the hearing, characterizing it as “fear mongering” and accusing Republican members of using the hearing as a platform to “bully” transgender children.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) said he was “absolutely disgusted” that Republicans on the Judiciary Committee were using the hearing as a “taxpayer-funded platform” to “bully” transgender youth. He also accused Republican lawmakers of “fear mongering for their five minutes of fame,” referring to the hearing as “farcical.”
Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA) also heavily criticized the proceedings, characterizing the hearing as a politically-motivated endeavor for Republicans intended to give them a boost at the ballot box. She also accused Republican lawmakers of actively promoting “cruelty” and “misinformation.”
Scanlon – Lia Thomas’ former teammate – then spoke to her experience of being “forced to undress” in front of a 6’4″ biological man eighteen times a week as a victim of sexual assault. When she raised concerns about the situation, Scanlon recounted being told by school officials that if she didn’t feel comfortable sharing a locker room with Thomas, she would be provided services to help “re-educate” her.
Scanlon went on to state that she felt the school was “gaslighting” and “fear mongering” women in order to validate the feelings of a man.
Chloe Cole – the young woman who de-transitioned after receiving “gender-affirming care” as a child – then spoke to the “lifelong irreversible harm” done to her by the medical community, referring to “gender-affirming care” as “one of the biggest medical scandals in the history of the United States of America.”
She recounted how at the age of 12 she expressed what doctors identified as symptoms of “gender dysphoria” and how she has come to realize in the years since that in reality, she just “hated puberty” and “looked up” to her brothers more than her sisters.
Cole than told the Committee how doctors had told her parents during discussions over whether or not to pursue medical interventions, they could either have “a dead daughter or a living transgender son.”
Because of the hormonal treatments she received as a child, Cole stated that her life “forever changed.” To this day, she experiences “joint pains” and “weird pops in her back” related to the hormonal interventions prescribed to her as a child. She also described, in great detail, the surgical procedures done to her and the lasting complications – both physical and mental – she has experienced as a result of them.
Cole shared that despite what is often said with regard to the mental health of children who express feelings of “gender dysphoria,” she was not suicidal prior to receiving medical intervention, but she tragically started experiencing suicidal thoughts afterwards.
She said that her “childhood was ruined” by the “barbaric pseudoscience” of “gender-affirming care.”
Myriam Reynolds then shared her story as the mother of a transgender child. At the age of 11, her daughter “came out” to her as transgender.
Reynolds said that she “prayed” that it was just a “phase” but “knew” that it wasn’t. Although Reynolds said that at times she “grieved” the loss of her “little girl,” she said she put her child’s needs above her own. According to Reynolds, her child was “not happy” prior to medically transitioning from female to male.
In describing her experience guiding her child through the medical transition process, Reynolds said that things moved very slowly, and that there was “no rush,” “no coercion,” and “lots of double checking.”
Reynolds asserted that the “health care” her child received was “life-saving.”
May Mailman then spoke to the Committee about Title IX, stating that it is a “simple” legal provision.
Mailman then went on to explain that Title IX acknowledges that in many cases, providing “equal opportunity for the sexes” means recognizing the “differences” between them.
She then laid out how recent changes to the federal government’s interpretation of Title IX are such that the availability of all-female sports team is no longer a given. She articulated how schools must now explain, on a case-by-case basis, why ensuring a team comprised of only biological females is necessary for a specific group of women playing a specific sport.
Mailman also argued that the Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County is irrelevant when discussing women’s sports, as that ruling relied on an interpretation of Title VII, not Title IX.
After this, Shannon Minter of the National Center for Lesbian Rights in San Francisco argued that parents, not the government, should have the freedom to make decisions for their children.
Minter then stated that “gender dysphoria” is a rare phenomenon affecting less than 1 percent of the population.
For reference, according to the 2021 Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey, 3.6 percent of high school students in Maine identify as transgender. An additional 2.9 percent of students indicated that they were “not sure” whether or not they were transgender.
Minter then suggested that children have received “gender-affirming” medical treatment for more than twenty years and that the medications often prescribed to these children have been used for other purposes for more than forty years.
Minter described the recent efforts of state legislatures to ban “gender-affirming care” as a “massive overreach,” arguing that it prevents doctors from doing their jobs and parents from getting their children the care they need.
Dr. Jennifer Bauwens of the Center for Family Studies then spoke to some of the medical research that has been done concerning transgender children and “gender-affirming” medical interventions.
Dr. Bauwens argued that children “do not have the capacity” to understand the “lifelong” consequences associated with pursuing medical transitions.
She then cited a statistic saying that approximately 45 percent of transgender individuals report experiencing childhood sexual abuse. Dr. Bauwens then noted that it is not uncommon for victims of such abuse to “hate” the parts of their body that once made them vulnerable.
Dr. Bauwens closed by making the case that children shouldn’t be told they need to change themselves “in order to be whole.”
Following the period of opening statements, each member of the Committee was granted five minutes to question the witnesses. Many lawmakers on both sides of the aisle spent the majority of their time issuing statements on the topic at hand, opining on their beliefs related to transgender children and medical transitions.
There were, however, a number of interesting and informative exchanges between the witnesses and lawmakers during this period.
Rep. Harriet M. Hageman (R-WY) asked Dr. Bauwens if medical professionals were “rejecting” gender transition surgeries. In response, Dr. Bauwens noted that 80 percent of the American Academy of Pediatrics asked for a review of the literature on the provision of medical treatment to children experiencing “gender dysphoria” and were denied.
Rep. Hageman also asked Dr. Bauwens if the use of the term “life saving” was misleading, to which she replied it is on account of the fact that it implies the matter is “settled,” when that is far from true.
During this exchange, Dr. Bauwens also cited a Swedish study in which it was found that after ten years, those who had undergone medical transitions were nineteen-times more likely to be suicidal than those who had not.
When it was Rep. Nadler’s turn to question the witnesses, he asked Minter if it were true that medical intervention is not provided for children who have not yet reached puberty. In reply, Minter said that this is “one-hundred percent correct.” The only intervention provided to prepubescent children, according to Minter, is “to let them be who they are.”
Nadler then asked Minter to comment on the experiences shared by Cole earlier in the hearing. In response, Minter stated that her experience was “the exception, not the rule.”
Minter then cited a statistic saying that 98 percent of those who medically transition as children continue that transition into adulthood.
Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) then gave Cole a chance to respond to Minter’s previous comments. Cole contended that most would opt to continue treatment into adulthood because, as she knows personally, the effects are nearly impossible to reverse.
Rep. McClintock then exchanged words with Rep. Scanlon, citing a comment she had made earlier about ensuring that parents have the ability to control the medical care their children receive. McClintock asked Scanlon why, if she truly believed in this principle, should she not support legislation requiring parents to be included and consulted at every step of the process should their child express a desire to transition, either medically or socially. Scanlon did not provide a clear answer to this question, only stating that he was “mischaracterizing” her remarks.
Rep. Becca Balint (D-VT) then asked the Committee to bring the discussion back to considerations of “basic dignity.” Rep. Balint directed her attention toward Reynolds, asking her to share more about her experience of “getting [her] child the support they needed.”
In response, Reynolds said that she really “tried to get it right” and that its “painful” to be seen as an “abuser” and “indoctrinater” as a result of her efforts.
Balint then briefly apologized to Cole for “feel[ing]” like she hadn’t gotten the care she “deserved,” but the representative did not direct any questions toward her or allow her time to respond.
Rep. Wesley Hunt (R-TX) did not ask any questions during his five-minute period, but instead gave a brief speech about the dangers of affirming “every thought” that children have, comparing expressions of “gender dysphoria” to a child asking for ice cream for “breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”
Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) also used his time to offer extensive comments. He described the process of diagnosing “gender dysphoria” in a child, and accused Republican lawmakers of using a “vulnerable group” in order to “gain political power.”
Rep. Cohen further accused Republican lawmakers of spreading medical “misinformation” on multiple occasions, including during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) then had a lengthy exchange with Minter about the recent changes made to Washington state law concerning transgender children who arrive at homeless shelters. While Rep. Gaetz contended that this change “unlocks a window of time” in which the state can delay informing parents about the whereabouts of their transgender child, Minter argued that parents would still be informed.
Gaetz further argued that “proponents of radical gender ideology” want to “stand between parents” and their children.
Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-TX) then argued that Republican lawmakers want to “keep Americans on a treadmill of rage.” She then suggested that traditionally conservative news outlets will “make money” from airing soundbites from the hearing.
She also apologized to Reynolds for the comments made by Rep. Hunt.
Rep. Escobar said that if Republican lawmakers actually cared about protecting children, they would have passed legislation aimed at reducing gun violence.
Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA), Chairman of the Subcommittee, asked Dr. Bauwens about the changing statistics surrounding children who self-identify as transgender. In response, she stated that diagnoses of gender dysphoria are increasing and the primary affected demographic has shifted from biological males to biological females. Dr. Bauwens then suggested that such changes ought to be investigated.
Dr. Bauwens also discussed the potential impact of social media on these changing trends.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) then said that she wanted to “apologize for a hearing that frightens me.” She also used her time to speak directly to any children who identify as transgender who may have been watching the hearing, telling them that their “life is worth living.”
Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) then asked former NCAA swimmer Scanlon if she ever felt “silenced” by her school. In response, she recounted how an op-ed she wrote and published in her local paper regarding her experience sharing a locker room with Lia Thomas was retracted after being deemed as “offensive.”
During Rep. Roy’s time, Cole asked to address Reynolds directly. As she spoke, Cole began to tear up, sharing that as Reynolds spoke she “saw her own mother and father.” Cole then said she hoped Reynolds’ child does not end up suffering the same fate that she did.
Rep. Scanlon, who spoke earlier in the hearing, then accused the hearing of reflecting the “furthest extremes of right wing ideology.” Scanlon also argued that they had heard “lots of misinformation” throughout the course of this morning’s hearing.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) asked Scanlon more about her experience competing with and sharing a locker room with Lia Thomas. Scanlon concluded her remarks by arguing that it is not a “minority” of people who are affected by these issues.
In closing, Rep. Johnson stated that “our hearts go out to everybody.” He then asked Cole about her ability to consent to the treatments she received as a child, to which she responded that no matter how much information she had been provided, she simply could not have given proper consent, because when you’re a child, “you think you’re invincible.”
Watch the Full Hearing