Lawmakers in the state of Oklahoma are pushing a bill that could potentially force trans people under the age of 21 to detransition in what activists say may be the harshest anti-trans state legislation introduced this year.
The bill, titled House Bill 1011, would ban medical transition of anyone under the age of 21, making it a felony for doctors to provide patients 20 years old and under with gender-affirming healthcare. It was filed by State Representative Jim Olsen, who has called it “irresponsible for anybody in healthcare to provide or recommend life-altering surgeries that may later be regretted,” according to the local news station KFOR.
In addition to the forcible removal of gender-affirming healthcare for people under the age of 21, Section 2B of the prospective law criminalizes healthcare professionals —including mental health practitioners—who refer them to other professionals who are able to provide gender-affirming healthcare. Activists are sounding the alarm over the bill’s broad definition of gender-affirming care, as well, with one section defining it as any medication or procedure that “alters or removes the physical or anatomical characteristics that are typical for the individual’s biological sex,” which could presumably even include facial hair removal.
According to Erin Reed, a trans researcher and activist who tracks anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, stripping gender-affirming care from trans people who already rely on it could exacerbate existing threats of violence against LGBTQ2S+ people, with a record number of anti-trans legislation fueling violence against the demographic this year.
“We are witnessing the Overton window on gender-affirming care move in real time,” Reed noted in a Substack post. “Whereas just a few years ago, all of the transgender bills were about bathrooms and sports, now they have become increasingly eliminationist in attempting to forcibly detransition all transgender people.”
HB 1011 is not the first development in targeting gender-affirming healthcare for trans adults this year. Texas Republicans called for a ban of gender-affirming care for anyone under the age of 21 in June, while Missouri legislators proposed raising the legal age of gender-affirming care to 25 back in April. Florida governor Ron DeSantis pulled the plug on gender-affirming care coverage for adults on Medicaid in August.
Research has shown that gender-affirming health care saves lives by improving people’s mental health. According to a study authored by researchers at Harvard, the Massachusetts General Hospital and Fenway Health last year showed a 42 percent reduction of psychological distress, and a 44 percent reduction in suicidal ideation among trans subjects who had received gender-affirming surgical procedures.
According to another study authored by the Fenway Institute and the Massachusetts General Hospital last year, 13.1 percent of people who currently identify as trans say they have detransitioned at some point in their lives. However, 82.5 percent of those people attribute their decision to external factors such as pressure from family and increased vulnerability to violence and descrimination.
The bill will likely be a topic of debate among lawmakers during Oklahoma’s legislative session in February. If passed, it will join the ranks of several other anti-trans measures passed by the state’s lawmakers—including an anti-trans bathroom bill targeting students, a law barring trans youth from playing on the sports team that matches their gender and a ban on non-binary birth certificates.