Prizm News / June 26, 2018 / By Bob Vitale

 

Columbus City Schools teachers and students march at Columbus Pride in June. (Photo from Columbus City Schools via Facebook)

Education, counseling and treatment would be subject to parental veto under Republican measure.

 

By Bob Vitale

A bill introduced by two Ohio lawmakers would make it a fourth-degree felony—the same level crime as grand theft auto or sexual conduct with a minor—for teachers not to tell parents when a kid shows signs of gender dysphoria.  

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Advocates say it’s a dangerous idea.  

They say the legislation written by state Reps. Tom Brinkman and Paul Zeltwanger, both Republicans from Southwest Ohio, would out children who confide in non-family members about their gender identity. It also would require permission from both parents—whether or not they have custody and authority to make medical decisions—before a child could even receive information about gender issues. 

“It would be horrific,” TransOhio Co-Chair Melissa Alexander said. “It’s a very harmful bill.” 

House Bill 658 received a hearing before the House Community and Family Advancement Committee last week. Equality Ohio spokesman Grant Stancliff said no other hearings have been scheduled in the General Assembly. 

The bill has three main requirements: 

  • Schools, courts, hospitals, and children’s services agencies would be required to notify parents and guardians or custodians immediately when a child exhibits symptoms of gender dysphoria or “otherwise demonstrates a desire to be treated in a manner opposite of the child’s biological sex.”  
  • Parents and guardians or custodians would have to give their permission before a transgender child could receive any counseling or care. The bill requires medical experts to provide parents, guardians and custodians a report about their proposed treatment and research about whether it’s safe and effective. 
  • A parent’s refusal to allow treatment for a transgender child could not be used to determine his, her or their custody.

In March, a Hamilton county judge awarded custody of a transgender 17-year-old to grandparents who supported his transition. The boy’s parents objected to hormone therapy after he was diagnosed by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center with gender dysphoria. 

“Parents have a fundamental right to decide what is best for their children,” Brinkman told fellow lawmakers at last week’s hearing. 

TransOhio and Equality Ohio oppose Brinkman’s bill. 

Not only does it violate children’s privacy—Alexander describes the symptoms-reporting provision as requiring teachers to “rat out the child”—but it also calls into question established treatment procedures, according to TransOhio. 

Common and widely accepted treatment for transgender and gender-nonconforming children is to delay puberty through medication until they fully understand their gender identity, Alexander said.  

“This has been a proven, established medical practice,” she said. 

The privacy questions also are a big concern, though. 

Human Rights Campaign survey of 12,000 LGBTQ teens released in May found that just one-quarter said they feel comfortable being themselves in their own home. Trans youth were more than twice as likely as other LGBTQ youth to report being taunted or mocked by their own families. 

“It’s no secret that not all parents are supportive of their trans kids,” Stancliff said. “One thing we know is it’s important for a child to choose their own timeline, for their own safety, of when they come out.” 

Stancliff told the story of a young person who recently told Equality Ohio that they had chosen to come out to their father while the two drove through Downtown Cleveland. That way, they said, if their father kicked them out of the car, they were in a place where help was available. 

Under House Bill 658, officials who don’t notify parents of a child’s gender-dysphoria symptoms—it doesn’t define what those symptoms might be—would face six to 18 months in jail and fines of up to $5,000. 

bobvitale@prizmnews.com
@Bob_Vitale

Bob Vitale
Bob Vitale is the editor of Prizm. A Toledo native and graduate of Toledo Public Schools, he has worked as a local government and politics reporter for The Columbus Dispatch, as a Washington correspondent for Thomson Newspapers and as editor-in-chief for Outlook Ohio. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism and political science from Ball State University and a master's degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield. Contact: BobVitale@prizmnews.com