Editor's Note: This piece was co-authored by State Senator Alan Clark.
When politicians are faced with challenging issues, the temptation is to do what is politically safe. However, politicians should think more about what is actually safe, especially when children are involved.
That’s why we sponsored the Saving Adolescents From Experimentation (SAFE) Act to ensure that children who experience gender dysphoria aren’t rushed into life changing decisions they aren’t prepared to make.
The SAFE Act does three things. First, it prohibits puberty-suppressing drugs and cross-sex hormones from being given to minors. Most people don’t know that the drugs commonly used to stop puberty and change a child’s appearance are all being used off label. The same voices who tell us to “follow the science” are apparently unconcerned that there isn’t any science suggesting these drugs are safe for these purposes. In fact, the available evidence points the other way. A comprehensive 2011 study from tolerant, accepting Sweden found people who underwent gender reassignment surgery suffered greater physical and mental health problems than the general population. Most concerning, they were 19 times more likely to complete suicide. What is being done today is dangerous. Children should not be experimented on simply because the experiment is politically acceptable.
Second, it prohibits surgical procedures to remove the healthy body parts of children who experience gender dysphoria. Lost in the enthusiasm for sex-change surgery is the reality of sex change regret. A growing number of people who surgically modify their body to relieve mental distress regret their decision because it did not help. You can read their stories at SexChangeRegret.com.
If a minor is not old enough to purchase cigarettes in any state, or get a tattoo or purchase certain over-the-counter drugs like NyQuil, they are not old enough to remove healthy body parts or permanently damage their ability to reproduce.
Third, it prevents taxpayer funds and insurance from being used to pay for gender transition procedures for minors. Anything that is subsidized will become more common, and the evidence is clear that we do not want to increase the number of children who are permanently changing their bodies in an attempt to find peace—especially when we know that 85 percent of girls and 97 percent of boys will find peace if allowed to grow and develop naturally, with no intervention.
No provision in the bill takes away or restricts access to healthcare or counseling, as critics falsely claim. It simply protects minors from being preyed upon and pressured into making adult decisions before they are ready. Those who claim otherwise are being disingenuous, and either haven’t read the bill or are placing fundraising above the best interest of children.
We’ve received many messages of support for the bill, but one in particular stands out. It comes from someone who was born male and now, as an adult, presents and identifies as female. Minors do not know “who they are or what they want to be,” and granting them “autonomy over [their] physical wellbeing to drastically alter biochemistry at that age is a poor decision.” Like using tobacco or getting a tattoo, gender transition procedures carry life-long consequences that minors are not equipped to accept.
According to journalist Abigail Shrier, author of the book Irreversible Damage, the number of gender reassignment clinics in the United States has increased from one in 2007 to fifty today. Between 2016 and 2017, the number of gender reassignment surgeries for girls quadrupled. In Britain there was a 4,400 percent rise in gender reassignments for teenage girls compared to 2008.
When we look at these numbers, it becomes clear that gender incongruity and gender dysphoria, and transgenderism more broadly, are much more than a medical condition; they are also a cultural phenomenon.
Gender incongruity and gender dysphoria are real, and serious. Families and children deserve compassion and care. Part of providing compassion and care is making sure children don’t harm themselves out of ignorance. The alternative is likely a future where thousands of adults look in the mirror and ask themselves what happened to all the adults.
Robin Lundstrum serves in the Arkansas State House for the 87th District. Alan Clark serves in the Arkansas State Senate for the 13th District.