A handful of Republican lawmakers in North Carolina want to force school officials to monitor kids for signs of any genderbending and to snitch on them to their parents.
In some ways, Senate Bill 514, titled the Youth Health Protection Act, mimics a recently passed Arkansas bill. It forbids health professionals from providing treatments like hormones or puberty blockers to trans youths who want to suppress or alter the development of their birth sex characteristics. (Republican Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson vetoed the Arkansas bill, but lawmakers then overrode his veto.)
But the North Carolina bill goes a step further. The bill, sponsored by Sens. Ralph Hise (R–Spruce Pine), Warren Daniels (R–Morganton), and Norman Sanderson (R–Minnesott Beach), orders school officials and child welfare workers to notify parents or guardians in writing whenever a minor under their supervision “has exhibited symptoms of gender dysphoria, gender nonconformity, or otherwise demonstrates a desire to be treated in a manner incongruent with the minor’s sex.”
In other words, the aim here isn’t to “protect” struggling teens who have doubts about their gender identities from making life-changing decisions too soon. The bill sets out to police gender conformity. By its very nature, it will target gays and lesbians as well as trans kids—and opens the door to surveilling boys and girls who are neither gay nor trans but simply don’t manifest typical masculine or feminine traits.
The law also forbids teachers and other government-employed caregivers from encouraging teens to keep mum about their situation if they’re worried that their parents won’t react well. Note that this part of the bill doesn’t actually specify gender identity issues. It literally just tells government agents that they can’t advise ever minors to withhold information from their parents, even if they believe the parent is abusive. Those who violate this part of the law could face discipline, and parents are authorized to sue for civil damages.
As a punchline, the bill includes a section that shields other types of treatments from being banned in the state:
A State office, agency, political subdivision of the State or local government, or any organization with authority to license or discipline the members of a profession may not prohibit, impose any penalty, or take any adverse action against any individual who gives or receives counsel, advice, guidance, or any other speech or communication, whether described as therapy or provided for a fee, consistent with conscience or religious belief.
That part of the law is there to protect therapists who provide “conversion therapy” that purports to “cure” gay or trans people of their same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria. So the bill bans therapies that, though controversial in some quarters, are supported by medical professionals as an appropriate treatment in some cases—and the very same bill protects a therapy widely understood to be a scam that causes psychological damage to vulnerable gay and trans kids.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m a critic of conversion therapy bans, which in my view violate the First Amendment. But more than that, I’m a critic of getting lawmakers involved in what does and does not qualify as appropriate therapies. That’s an issue for the kids, parents, and medical professionals to work out among themselves; the government should only ever think of getting involved when those sides aren’t in alignment.
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