Op eds

This op-ed by Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) first appeared in the Daily Advertiser on March 14, 2024. This piece also appeared in the Shreveport Times, Houma Today, The Daily Comet, The Town Talk, The News-Star, The Weekly Citizen and Daily World.

Those who advocate for minors to be able to change genders believe powerful medications and surgery are the only way to help gender dysphoric children. Most parents in Louisiana, however, believe that irreversible medical procedures could harm these children in the future if they change their minds about changing their sex.

Some adult activists pressure parents, doctors, lawmakers and children themselves to allow minors to permanently change their bodies to match whatever gender they may think they prefer. If a young boy thinks he is a girl, these activists think the boy’s gender preference should be automatically "affirmed" by giving the kid puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and sex-reassignment surgeries.

These pediatric gender procedures can maim and sterilize children. Puberty blockers include the same drugs that the government uses to chemically castrate sex offenders, and they can permanently diminish a child’s bone density.

Yet some activists want to and do give these drugs to second graders. Cross-sex hormones can destroy a child's fertility, but these activists believe 13-year-olds are mature enough to decide to take them.

Sex-reassignment surgeries slice off healthy organs and skin tissue to construct genitals that may never regain sensation, and gender activists advocate allowing 15-year-olds to go under the knife at their own discretion.

Such demands are even more disturbing when you realize that roughly 85% of children who say they experience gender dysphoria will outgrow it by the time they finish adolescence. It is impossible, however, to fully undo the effects of cross-sex hormones or heal the scars of mastectomies or genital surgeries. So why do some people insist that parents usher kids into gender-changing surgeries and inject them with sterilizing drugs?

Despite the gender activists’ claims, these medical procedures may not improve outcomes for children who have or think they have gender dysphoria. A study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry found no significant reduction in mental health issues or suicide-related hospitalizations among adults who underwent hormone treatments.

There’s also "no advantage of surgery" as it relates to certain mental health improvements or hospitalizations for suicide attempts. Still, activists market these draconian procedures to parents as "life-saving" treatments.

This in-your-face transgender rhetoric appears to be influencing an unprecedented number of children. Nationwide, the population of children who claim to be transgender roughly doubled between 2017 and 2020. Louisiana children aged 13 to 17 years old are three times more likely to identify as transgender than adults between the ages of 25 and 64 years old.

It’s tough to be a kid, and there are many reasons children might question who they are and who they want to be. School is challenging, bullies are mean, and puberty is awkward for most boys and girls.

We shouldn’t, however, allow children to go through irreversible physical changes to address what, statistically, is likely a temporary season of confusion or anxiety. The Louisiana Legislature was wise to pass a bipartisan bill, H.B. 648, which outlawed these irreversible treatments on Louisiana’s children until they are of the majority age.

Parents need protection from gender activists, too. In some states, parents can lose custody of their children for refusing to affirm the child’s stated gender preference. Other states allow minors to access puberty blockers or cross-sex hormones without parental consent. Parents shouldn’t be punished for choosing to protect their children from extremists.

That’s why I’m cosponsoring the Families’ Rights and Responsibilities Act, a bill that would help parents fight back if they are attacked for opposing the transgender agenda. Supporting parents who want to protect their children and help them make the right decision if they are gender confused is the safest, strongest way to lift up our kids and foster healthy families.

There are too many stories of minors who end up regretting taking puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones or undergoing sex-change surgery, and I fear that many more stories are going to come to light. I’m going to do all I can to allow kids to be kids until they are old enough to decide for themselves.