By Kellen Jones

During the most recent broadcast of HBO’s Realtime, Bill Maher posited that there had to be a social component to the general rise of children claiming to be transgender in certain regions of the United States. After noting that there are fewer transgender kids in Youngstown, Ohio, than Los Angeles, Maher quipped, “Either Youngstown is shaming them, or L.A. is creating them.”

Maher’s comments were predicated on a recent interview the L.A. times did with a transgender clinical psychologist, Dr. Erica Anderson. Anderson protested the rise of transgenderism in America's youth, noting that cases of young people claiming to be transgender were rising because of “the influence of [adolescent] peers and social media.” These comments mirrored earlier statements by the transgender doctor wherein Anderson warned that transgenderism in children was rising “because it’s trendy.”

To her credit, Gov. Kay Ivey has taken measures to shelter children from the enormous forces promoting transgenderism in America. Although Ivey is powerless to stop the popular media forces that may encourage children toward disillusionment with their birth gender, she has supported legislation to prevent the use of irreversible gender reassignment surgeries and potentially cancer-causing hormone blockers on Alabama’s children. The Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act (SB 184), which Ivey signed into law this past April, criminally penalizes doctors with up to 10 years in prison for providing any form of medically induced gender transitions to children. The legislation should be remembered as one of the greatest achievements of Ivey’s governorship; however, it does not do enough to protect vulnerable youth in Alabama. The bill protects vulnerable young children, but it fails to protect vulnerable young adults.

As it is well known, the human brain develops for about a quarter of our lives. Current science indicates that the pre-frontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for long-term planning and judgment, does not finish developing until around the age of twenty-five. In a statutory era where you cannot smoke a cigarette or drink a beer before the age of 21, it is appalling that any state would allow someone with an undeveloped brain to pursue a life-altering procedure with such grave consequences as permanent as gender reassignment surgery.

Recently, 60 Minutes touched on this issue during an episode focusing on teens and young adults who completed gender-reassignment surgeries and realized they had made a mistake. One of the numerous people interviewed for the CBS program was a young man named Garrett from Baton Rouge, who had his testicles removed after just three months of hormone therapy. Garrett would later go on to receive a breast augmentation. After the procedures, Garrett told 60 Minutes, he felt more depressed than before his transition. Garrett and the battery of other young people interviewed for the program all told the same story, a time of confusion and insecurity in their lives was met with overly “supportive” doctors willing to offer largely irreversible surgeries. "I had never really felt suicidal until I had my breast augmentation,” Garrett told CBS’s Leslie Stahl. 

Garrett’s story was not atypical of the young adults interviewed by 60 Minutes, and his story seems on par with the statistics we commonly hear in the news media about post-operation dissatisfaction, depression and suicide in America’s transgender population.

Even after reaching the age of majority in America, we have long limited the types of decisions we allow our young adults to make. One cannot run for president until they are thirty-five. One cannot run for congress until they are twenty-five. Most states do not let high school-aged young adults concealed carry handguns, even if they have graduated high school. Every state, as it was earlier mentioned, forbids smoking or drinking until age twenty-one. Although there are certainly community concerns justifying these age-based restrictions, these laws also recognize that even young adults sometimes lack the maturity and wisdom to make certain calls for themselves. For their own protection and out of compassion for the enormous social pressures on modern American young adults, Alabama should expand SB 184 to include restrictions on transgender medical procedures for Alabama’s young adults too. In the long course of history, Alabama’s law will not be remembered as "protecting the vulnerable" or “compassionate” if it allows its confused young adults to permanently mutilate themselves without the clarity concomitant with age.

Kellen Jones is a graduate student of Public Administration at the University of Alabama, and graduated cum laude from Alabama with a bachelors in political science and a minor in history. to contact Mr. Jones, email [email protected]. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to [email protected] .