February 3, 2023 – Clair McFarland, CowboyStateDaily
Luka Hein testified to Wyoming lawmakers Friday about her experiences detransitioning from gender medicalization. (Matt Idler for Cowboy State Daily)
Chloe’s Law, a proposed Wyoming law that would prohibit doctors and nurse practitioners from prescribing transgender-related treatments to minors unanimously passed its first legislative committee hearing Friday.
The pass came after Luka Hein, a 21-year-old detransitioner who regrets taking hormones and having surgery as a teenager, testified in favor of the bill.
Hein now lives as a young woman in accordance with her biological sex.
“I was a young teenager with a history of mental health issues who had been groomed and preyed upon, and exploited online,” said Hein. “Yet the medical system did not address any of my underlying issues, or why I had distress, or why I felt the need to escape my body at such a young age.”
Hein said she was pushed down a path of irreversible and permanent medicalization.
‘I Was Pushed Down A Path’
At age 16 and after just one consultation with a surgeon and another with a gender clinic, Hein said she had both her breasts removed “in the name of gender-affirming care.”
A few months later she started taking testosterone.
“I was not able to give consent at the time due to both my age and my mental health issues,” she said. “At 21, I now live with lifelong complications from that and I have no idea if they’ll go away.”
Hein said her joints hurt, and she doesn’t know if she’ll ever be able to carry a child.
“Not to mention the fact that my breasts are gone,” she added.
Hein said there was nothing wrong with her body in the first place.
“I was just a teenager that was uncomfortable,” she said. “I was pushed down a path that taught me that growing up was a disease that needed to be cured with surgery and medicine.”
Hein said that children should be allowed “to grow up whole” and can’t consent to such treatments.
She said her own underlying issues “were pushed to the side.”
Hein expressed sympathy for her parents, saying they were coerced into transitioning their daughter medically by professionals who claimed Hein would kill herself if they didn’t.
“I’d always maintained I was never suicidal,” said Hein, adding that, “they were told by the doctors, ‘Would you rather having a living son or a dead daughter?’
“These are not the words of a medical professional but of an activist.”
Hein’s treatments happened in Nebraska, according to committee testimony.
Medical Licenses Revokable
Chloe’s Law, Senate File 144, would make licenses revokable for doctors and nurse practitioners who prescribe or administer any transgender-related treatment to people younger than 18 – from puberty blockers to cross-sex hormones to surgeries.
It also would forbid insurers from covering those procedures in Wyoming.
The bill does not criminalize parents or doctors for their involvement in gender treatment of minors.
The bill is narrower than Senate File 111 now being contemplated in the Wyoming House of Representatives, which says administering transgender treatment to kids would be a criminal act – felony child abuse – which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
The Wyoming Senate, Labor, Health and Social Services Committee advanced Chloe’s Law with a 5-0 vote Friday.
Because, Puberty Blockers
Multiple witnesses testified against the bill.
Sheila Bush, executive director for the Wyoming Medical Society, called Chloe’s Law “a sad example of when politics overcomes good policy.”
She emphasized that doctors are not performing transgender-related surgeries on kids in Wyoming, but said puberty blockers are used.
A good policy, Bush continued, would have involved medical professionals more in the process.
“They’re not monsters. They’re just not,” she said.
Sen Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, asked Bush why she would oppose the bill if doctors aren’t performing transgender surgeries on kids.
Bush said Wyoming physicians are concerned that they’ll lose their licenses for prescribing puberty blockers, “to give kids more time.”
Puberty blockers delay puberty and have been touted by transgender activists as a pause button allowing youth to contemplate questions of gender identity before the hormonal onrush of puberty. The long-term effects of many puberty blockers are unknown, though they have been used to delay early puberty in cisgender children and for other uses.
The other uses for the drugs not related to transgender treatments would not be forbidden under Chloe’s Law.
Sen. Lynn Hutchings, R-Cheyenne, told Bush that she took Lupron prior to receiving a hysterectomy and has had joint issues since then, similar to Hein.
LGBTQ Advocate Of Wyoming
Sara Burlingame, executive director of Wyoming Equality, said the bill is too broad and discounts the real-life struggles families with transgender children face.
She said she’s overseen a support group for families in this plight and regrets that those real struggles “are not entertained in bills like these.”
Chris Folsom, a graduate student at the University of Wyoming who has job-shadowed under Colorado doctors who provide gender-affirming care, spoke in defense of puberty blockers for minors, saying they can save lives.
“I’ve seen it save lives, and I think in the state with one of the highest suicide rates it’s something that should really matter to us,” said Folsom.
Major medical bodies such as the American Medical Association and American Psychiatric Association support using the blockers for minors, Folsom continued, saying legislators should defer to the opinions of experts on the matter.
Marcie Kindred, a Cheyenne resident who unsuccessfully challenged Sen. Stephan Pappas, R-Cheyenne, in the 2022 general election, spoke against the bill as well.
Kindred said bills like Chloe’s Law infringe on parental autonomy, which Wyomingites typically cherish and try to safeguard.
“The choices we make as parents are always under scrutiny,” said Kindred. “We’re all just doing our best.”
Kindred said many children have unique needs that shouldn’t be in the purview of the state.
“This is the beginning of a very slippery slope of government overreach into our homes and lives,” she said.
Doctor, Lawyer, And A Tomboy In Favor
Dr. Mike Tracy, a pediatrician in Powell, Wyoming, and past president of the Wyoming Medical Society, spoke in favor of the bill.
He said expert opinions are at the bottom of the pyramid on which doctors rely for direction, and randomized, controlled trials that start with hypothesis and measure effects of a treatment are at the top of the pyramid.
The reason expert opinions aren’t as reliable as those trials, said Tracy, is that experts can “be subject to biases, groupthink and other pressures, including politics.”
Tracy also said that Sweden – considered the leader in gender-related care for about a decade – has changed course on the issue, forbidding “gender-affirming hormones and surgery” for transgender kids except in a research setting approved by Sweden’s ethics review board.
“This does not mean that Swedish health care no longer cares for transgender youth,” said Tracy. “It means the risk of harm is being recognized and controlled through approved study.”
Wyoming-based attorney Cassie Craven also defended the bill, saying it clarifies medical practice so that doctors aren’t left thinking they can undertake practices that may already be criminal under the mental and emotional abuse provisions of Wyoming’s existing child-abuse statute.
Laura Pearson, a Wyoming sheep farmer, mother and grandmother, urged legislators to vote in favor of the bill.
She said she behaved entirely as a boy until puberty and is now grateful that no one subjected her to transgender medicalization.
Sen. Eric Barlow, R-Gillette, had voted Jan. 27 against the bill that would criminalize parents and doctors for their roles in transitioning children medically. He said at the time that the bill’s definitions may not achieve its purpose.
Barlow had nothing but praise for Chloe’s Law, however, and voted in favor of it.
“This bill I find to be very precise,” he said, adding that he’s heard from people who believe the bill “goes beyond what it is.”
Witnesses had testified in fear that the bill could forbid prescription of puberty blockers for early-puberty cases or cancer patients.
Barlow said the bill won’t get in the way of those treatments.
“I am far more comfortable with this than with the previous bill, and will vote accordingly,” said Barlow.
Another flip vote from the earlier bill was committee Chairman Sen. Fred Baldwin, R-Kemmerer, who had worried that the criminalizing legislation could impinge on the doctor-patient relationship.