The Montana Legislature passed a bill Wednesday afternoon that will restrict gender-transitioning drugs and procedures to minors.
Most hospitals around the state are not affected by the changes in the bill, because they do not offer the services that are being banned. But opponents say the bill will have a major impact on the transgender community in Montana for years to come.
Quinn Wolffe, 24, knows firsthand how difficult it is to be transgender. Socially, he made the transition in high school but biologically, it takes longer.
"I came out as 17 as trans and changed my name," Wolffe said. "I didn't get to medically transition until literally the start of this year."
The current process requires recommendations from a psychiatrist or proof that an individual suffers from gender dysphoria. Also, in many states like Montana, the surgical option is already not available.
"It sucks that that is a problem everywhere," Wolffe said. "You have to have that diagnosis. You have to go through other people to get what you need."
But there are other options besides surgery. Wolffe applies a gel treatment to his arm, which boosts his testosterone and was prescribed after his team of doctors and therapists got the right approval. Other medications help with hormone levels and can postpone puberty.
Today, all of those methods were made nearly impossible for minors to use in Montana, when a bill sponsored by Republican Sen. John Fuller from Kalispell passed the Montana Senate on a 32-17 vote. It had already previously passed the House.
"The Youth Health Protection Act is designed to protect children from the imposition of chemical and surgical procedures for the purpose of causing the child to physically appear more like a person of the opposite sex," Fuller said in a hearing on March 20.
Advocates of the bill said that the legislation is meant to protect children from making dangerous decisions that they may later regret.
"Children live under the guidance and guardianship of adults precisely because they lack maturity and experience to make safe and responsible decisions for themselves," Fuller said. "Many of the biological effects, for instance, testosterone and hormone therapy, cannot be reversed."
The bill will go to Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte's desk for his signature. Billings Clinic is the only hospital in the city directly affected by the bill. The hospital offers medications that would be banned by the legislation to some patients.
"Billings Clinic does not provide permanent gender-affirming surgical procedures for minors as outlined in SB99. However, our pediatric specialists use medications banned by this legislation for a wide range of patients with many different medical conditions. The legislation will affect that care, which could compromise numerous types of medically necessary, lifesaving, fertility preserving and cancer prevention care," the hospital said in a statement.
While proponents argue the dangers of letting children make the decision for themselves, those who have experienced the changes feel differently. Wolffe believes far more harm is caused when kids aren't allowed to fully embrace who they are.
"It makes me worried," Wolffe said. "I'm worried about these kids. I'm worried about these people not being able to have this help that they need to actually be themselves."
And he's hopeful that something will change so others will have an easier road.
"You don't have to agree on everything to support your fellow humans," Wolffe said.
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