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Trans kids in Georgia say they have target on their back with GOP initiative

Maya T. Prabhu and Ariel Hart, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on

Published in News & Features

‘Too rapid’

Some dissenters have formed alternate groups, disagreeing with the organizations and calling for a halt to such treatments.

Erica Anderson, a California-based clinical psychologist and former board member of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, told a reporter for the website the BMJ that she believes some kids are allowed to transition too fast.

“We don’t have lab tests that reveal if someone is trans nor not,” Anderson told the BMJ. “We have growing numbers of self-reported transitions that were very rapid — in my opinion, too rapid — getting on hormones right away, getting gender affirming surgery, and then shortly thereafter regretting it all.”

Health care leaders in Finland and Sweden have slowed the administration of gender-affirming care in adolescents, recommending it only on a case-by-case basis.

In issuing the new Swedish guidelines, that country’s National Board of Health and Welfare cited the lack of new research and what it called the “new knowledge” that some young transition patients have regretted their transition and reversed their transition.

It also said that the number of young patients seeking to transition had significantly increased in recent years, especially among those seeking to transition from female to male, and that it wanted to better understand why.

”To minimize the risk that a young person with gender incongruence later will regret a gender-affirming treatment,” the Swedish guidelines were changed, it said. It added, “Questions on how to ensure that all young people suffering from gender dysphoria be taken seriously and confirmed in their gender identity, well received and offered adequate care are becoming increasingly relevant, and will need to be answered.”

Scientists say that some patients who transition end up stopping, and some end up reversing their transition. But they say the numbers are tiny compared with the numbers who transition.

However, many of those who specialize in transgender care say that careful psychological assessment is important.

Dr. Dane Whicker of Duke University’s School of Medicine, a clinical psychologist who works with transgender patients, said he’s had two or three kids in his decade-plus experience who didn’t go through transitioning.

A key point is the concept of regret.

Stopping or reversing a transition doesn’t mean the patient regretted the transition, said Dr. Angela Kade Goepferd, a pediatrician and medical director of gender health at the Children’s Minnesota hospital system. Instead, she said, almost all of those who stop — often adults — do so because they’re getting backlash from their communities and families.

“They’re experiencing too much stigma, too much discrimination, and they just can’t do it,” Goepferd said. “It’s not that they want to stop, but they feel like that’s the choice they have to make.”

Care in Georgia

Dr. Izzy Lowell, who runs the Decatur-based gender transition practice Queer Med, said her clinic has about 4,000 active clients from across the South, and about 20% of them are under 18.

She has a handful of patients who are as young as 6 or 7 who only come in to her practice once a year and receive no medical treatment. The bulk of her patients that are under 18 are in their teens and usually have to have already started puberty before being treated with puberty blockers or other hormones. She does not do surgical treatment on minors, nor does she know anyone who does in Georgia.

Lowell said people who seek out her practice want medical treatment, though she partners with mental health providers for patients who want to undergo therapy.

“In the best cases, the family has known they’re trans their whole life, they come in and, as soon as we can, we get them on treatments, everything goes smoothly and they never have to experience the wrong puberty and go through that terrible dysphoria,” Lowell said. “The worst cases, patients come to me after a suicide attempt and the family decides that they’ll try anything not to have their child kill themselves. And that’s far more common than it should be.”


Families with transgender children who spoke with the AJC say that while it may have taken children a while before putting the feeling that they were transgender or nonbinary into words, it was always evident. Someone who is nonbinary doesn’t identify as strictly male or female. Dare, a 16-year-old from Dacula who uses “they” as their pronoun, said they were about 10 when they started to think they may be nonbinary.

“I’ve always been gender neutral my whole life,” Dare said. “My mom talks about how, when I was really little, I would pick toys from the boys aisle and the girls aisle.”

Dare and their sibling, a 13-year-old transgender boy named Jay, told their parents about their gender identities about the same time in 2020. Neither has been able to secure an appointment to get a diagnosis of gender dysphoria and begin medical treatment, so their transition has been social — meaning changing their names and dressing in a way that more aligns with their gender identity.

“Being nongender conforming isn’t a decision that’s made on a whim,” Jay said. “They’ve most likely known for a long time before they decided to tell anyone.”

‘She wants you to leave her alone’

Jen Slipakoff, a Kennesaw resident, said her daughter first started talking about being transgender when she was 5. Up until then she had been raised as a boy. She’s 15 now.

“We already knew exactly what was happening before she ever said anything,” Slipakoff said. “She has an older brother, so our house was full of traditional boys toys. And our daughter would play with those toys in a very different way than our son was. She would take her little soldiers shopping instead of putting them on the battlefield. She was always drawn to what we would consider traditional girls toys and traditional female clothing.”

When she turned 5, she asked her mother to change her name.

“She became more and more insistent,” Slipakoff said. “That’s when we realized like OK, this is something that we need to address.”

During a Senate hearing last month, Slipakoff told lawmakers she was concerned that her teenage transgender daughter would be bullied by her classmates when she came out as trans.

“I’m happy to report, she has never been bullied by her classmates,” Slipakoff said. “That’s not to say she doesn’t have bullies. Here in this room right now, they sponsored this bill and they’re the ones that are going to vote for it. ... She doesn’t want and she doesn’t need your protection. She wants you to leave her alone.”

Democratic lawmakers and other opponents of SB 140 have also questioned how the same group of lawmakers could push legislation last year that allowed parents to opt their children out of school policies for things such as vaccines, masks and lessons and now say that parents shouldn’t be able to make health decisions for their children.

During a House panel debating the legislation on Tuesday, state Rep. Shelly Hutchinson, a Snellville Democrat, read a series of arguments Republican lawmakers made in the media during those debates. Among them were comments such as “parents have the right to make decisions about their children’s health care without interference from government.”

“At what point did Georgia shift from giving parents rights to taking away their rights for whatever medical treatment they deem appropriate with their doctors?” she asked Summers.

“I’m just doing the bill to protect children,” Summers said. “That’s it, pure and simple.”

Opponents of the bill say it would harm more children than it would help.

Michael, the 17-year-old Duluth resident, said if SB 140 was the law at the beginning of his transgender journey and banned him from receiving testosterone, he doesn’t think he would still be living.

“I most likely, honestly, would not be alive,” he said. “That’s what I’m saying. That’s how much it affects me. That’s how much it’s changed my life. And I just couldn’t imagine it because I know where I was, and I know I wouldn’t be here without it.”

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