March 21, 2023 – By Ashlyn Myers, TheStatehouseFile.com
INDIANAPOLIS—Voices erupted outside the House Chamber as a physician called gender transition procedures “bad medicine.”
A tearful parent said these procedures are the reason for her son’s only recent “moments of pure happiness.”
A man who transitioned just years ago cried out to parents that gender-affirming health care is only harmful.
Standing just barely tall enough to speak at the podium, a 14-year-old trans youth shared their trauma before a sea of lawmakers.
Physicians, transgender Hoosiers and parents all testified Tuesday before the House Public Health Committee, which heard over four full hours of discussion before its approval of Senate Bill 480, which would ban gender-affirming health care for Hoosiers under 18. Protestors yelled chants outside the Chamber like “kill the bill” and “hate is not a Hoosier value.”
The bill has garnered multiple protests from both sides of the aisle as it has made its way through the Senate and now the House.
Fourteen-year-old Silver Farrell stood up before the House Chamber Tuesday, having to lower the microphone to deliver his testimony. He said he has experienced extreme bullying at his school due to his gender identity.
“During my struggles, my mental health has not been great. I’ve battled with anxiety and depression leading to insomnia. The reason behind this is all the hate at school towards my gender. I won’t go too deep into that, but all the slurs, death threats and name calling have caused my mental health to suffer,” Farrell said.
“What I’m trying to say is I never thought the government—grown adults— would turn into my middle-school bullies.”
Farrell said that since beginning hormonal therapy, his mental health has improved and he has become much happier. He urged legislators not to push forward with SB 480.
Meanwhile, George F. Kane, a family medicine physician, said his oath to protect his patients and do no harm contradicts participating in gender-affirming care. He said Indiana should follow the lead of other countries that have walked away from offering hormonal therapy or procedures for minors.
“Gender-affirming therapies are so poor that those medical organizations which first pioneered puberty blocking therapy and surgeries, including those in the Netherlands, Finland, Sweden and the UK, all in the last 18 months have radically walked back the recommendations for considering this treatment strategy,” Kane said.
Sweden halted gender-affirming care for minors in February 2022 after being the first country to legalize gender reassignment. According to health officials, the rollback was due to the unknown effects that hormonal treatments could causeyears from now.
Kane said SB 480 is a good law, one that protects Indiana’s children.
Rather than being good, Larisha Hanks, the parent of a transgender son, said the bill would be life threatening.
“According to this bill, I only have a few months left to enjoy having my son back,” Hanks said. “A few months of smiles and laughter before the consequences of this bill will suck the life out of him.”
With over 50 people on the schedule to speak before the committee, each person testifying was kept to a limit of three minutes, which eventually decreased to two minutes.
Scott Newgent, a transgender man and parent to three children, shared how harmful transitioning was for him.
“I underwent more than $1 million worth of surgeries and hormone therapies to change from Kelly to Scott,” Newgent said. “And I almost died in the process. The reason why I know this is experimental is because I had to figure out my own problem. I currently get infections and will for the rest of my life. And a lot of transgender people do.”
Newgent said he doesn’t blame other parents for testifying against the bill because he used to think just like them.
“I understand. I was part of it. And I get that,” Newgent said. “But at some point, we’ve got to tell the truth, and the truth is that when you’re told you’re born in the wrong body and you don’t fit in, we’re targeting all the kids that don’t belong.”
Pastor Chris Duckworth of New Joy Lutheran Church in Westfield testified against the bill on behalf of a larger group of faith leaders, saying that the bill was hurting and targeting children rather than the health care itself.
“SB 480 does not meet that standard of love. SB 480 will harm young trans people in our communities,” Duckworth said. “We know that this bill will threaten their physical safety and their mental health by denying them access to evidence-based health care.”
SB 480 follows a string of bills in the Indiana legislature on transgender rights, such as House Bill 1407, a bill on “parental rights,” and House Bill 1608, which would ban discussions on “human sexuality” in the classroom for children in kindergarten through third grade.
After four hours of conversation and multiple compliments from the committee chair, Rep. Brad Barrett, R-Richmond, on how considerate those testifying were, the bill ultimately passed 8-5.
Rep. Ann Vermillion, R-Marion, went across party lines as the only Republican to vote against the bill. She said she just didn’t think the bill was where it needed to be to pass.
“I don’t think we’re getting the full picture from the standard care of how does a Hoosier with this diagnosis work through the system,” Vermillion said.
The bill will now go to the House floor for second reading.
Ashlyn Myers is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.