Why the Transgender Conversation Is Changing

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New bans for surgeries and student sports aren’t the most dramatic changes in gender identity.

Last Friday, a bill that would ban transgender athletes from competing in middle, high school, and college sports passed in the West Virginia legislature. At least 20 different state legislatures have introduced transgender athlete bans in 2021. While South Dakota’s governor Kristi Noem vetoed a proposed ban, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi have signed these changes into law.

Arkansas’ governor, Asa Hutchinson, did, however, veto legislation that would have banned gender confirming treatments or sex reassignment surgery for transgender youth under 18. That bill would have been the first in the country to ban this practice. Meanwhile, last Monday, GOP legislators in North Carolina introduced a bill that that would prevent doctors from performing sex reassignment surgery for transgender people under the age of 21.

This flurry of state bills—a month ago LGBT advocacy group Human Rights Campaign had counted more than 80—has once again provoked impassioned fighting, much of it centered around children. It’s led to questions of fairness in youth sports, if adolescent judgement and diagnosis should be trusted, and what role and what say parents should have in how their children express their gender.

Mark Yarhouse is a pyschology professor at Wheaton College and the director of the Sexual and Gender Identity Institute. His books include Understanding Gender Dysphoria and most recently, Emerging Gender Identities. He joined global media manager Morgan Lee and editorial director Ted Olsen on this week’s episode of Quick to Listen.

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