On CNN, Williams Institute Federal Policy Director discusses misconceptions behind bans on care for trans youths

Elana Redfield: “there's a lot of misinformation about what kinds of care trans youth might receive.”

Video file

Citation From the April 29, 2023, edition of CNN's CNN This Morning Weekend

VICTOR BLACKWELL (HOST): Montana is now the latest state to ban gender-affirming care for trans minors. Debate over the bill drew national attention this week after Republican leaders exiled transgender lawmaker Zooey Zephyr from the House floor there. They said her remarks against the bill violated decorum. Montana joins more than a dozen Republican-led states that have banned such care, despite protests from the families of transgender youth that argue the care is essential. Joining me now is Elana Redfield with the Williams Institute. This is a think tank based at the UCLA School of Law that focuses on gender and sexual orientation issues in law and policy and informs these conversations with facts and not rhetoric. So that is why we have Elana on. Elana, good to have you. And let’s start here with, when we talk about gender-affirming care, especially for trans minors, people immediately think surgery, they think it's pharmaceutical. Is that the right context in which we should be having this conversation? 

ELANA REDFIELD (FEDERAL POLICY DIRECTOR, WILLIAMS INSTITUTE): Thank you, Victor. That's a great question, because actually there's a lot of misinformation about what kinds of care trans youth might receive. For very young kids, it's often really just affirmation of their gender and as they get older, it's talk therapy. For some kids, it involves puberty blocking medication which would delay the onset of puberty. And then in some cases it's cross-sex hormone therapy. In very rare cases is it surgery. 

BLACKWELL: So, at the top I said these are states that are now banning gender-affirming care for trans minors, because many of these laws do not address gender-affirming care for cis gender teenagers. If the parent wants to allow their 16-year-old to get breast implants, a cis gender girl, or their boy to get growth hormones, a cis gender boy, those things are not dealt with in legislation. Am I right here that this is focusing exclusively on, or primarily on I should say, on trans teens? 

REDFIELD: That's exactly right. The language of the bills for the most part, all of them include exceptions. So they're saying you can't get this care if you're trans, but you could get it if you, for example, have a diagnosis around precocious puberty or early onset puberty, or if you have an intersex condition or a diagnosis of physical or anatomical traits that might not typically conform to our ideals of male or female. There are exceptions in the rules that really point to the fact that this is really ideological. They're really trying to target trans kids. 

BLACKWELL: Most of the narrative, the foundational narrative, behind these laws or the efforts, is they're trying to protect children, they’re trying to protect minors. Actually, the Montana bill, it has the word protect or protective in the name. But Missouri is going a step further, I think it's the first state to do so, to extend some of these restrictions to adults. Explain to us what the justification is here, and are you finding a trend that if this moves to adults, that the conservative support would carry over, or would that be a step too far for some conservative lawmakers? 

REDFIELD: Well, I'd like to believe that some would see it as a step too far. But, at the same time, this is actually based on false information. The framing of the bills, as you point out, a lot of them have titles like save our children or protecting youth. The framing of these bills is really misleading, it's a red herring, because this care is best practice medical care. It's endorsed by the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics. It's widely accepted care. There are decades of research and science behind this care, showing how important and effective it is. So it's really misleading when they categorize it as protecting young people, it's actually causing them great harm. With the case of Missouri, and Missouri is kind of leading this but there are other states where this is at risk as well, they are using that same kind of argument to say that adults shouldn't have access to the care or that it should be extremely limited or restricted. That is equally inconsistent with the medicine. The medicine actually strongly supports access to the care.