‘Danger!’ champion Amy Schneider testifies against Ohio’s ban on transgender care

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“Danger!” champion Amy Schneider testified Wednesday before an Ohio House of Representatives committee meeting against a bill that would restrict gender-affirming medical care for minors.

Schneider, the first transgender contestant to qualify for the “Jeopardy!” Tournament of Champions and an Ohio resident, said she did not attend the meeting to “demonize supporters of this bill or claim they want children harmed.”

“I truly believe we all have the same goal here: to keep Ohio’s children safe and healthy,” she said.

But, she added, the “Save Adolescents From Experimentation (SAFE) Act” — which seeks to limit doctors’ ability to give puberty blockers, hormone replacement therapy and gender-confirming surgery to minors — would put some children “in grave danger, and a danger that they would not all survive.”

Schneider said she knows this in part because of her own experience. She said her life today “exceeds my wildest dreams” after she won $1 million on “Jeopardy!”, becoming the show’s top female earner; visited the White House; and married her wife, Genevieve, in May.

“And yet, if all of those things stayed as they are now, and the only thing that changed was I was told I couldn’t have hormone therapy anymore, I don’t know if I could go on living,” Schneider said.

She said that throughout her life before coming out as transgender, she felt like “there was a silent alarm going off in the back of my mind” that said “danger, danger.” After receiving gender-affirming care, “that alarm went silent for the first time in my life and I knew peace and quiet for the first time.”

Schneider, who was one of more than a dozen people to testify on Wednesday, said trans youth who have access to gender-affirming care have an opportunity to achieve that same peace.

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“So what I’m asking here today is that you please don’t take that away from them,” she said. “Please don’t force them to go back to that constant sense of wrongness and danger. I’m not asking anyone here to change your personal opinion of transgender people. I’m not here to berate anyone about pronouns. I’m not here to make anyone out swearing on pronouns. asking you to do anything but not pass a ban that extends the government’s reach, not restrict the freedom of families and doctors and communities to decide for themselves what their children need.”

Rep. Latyna Humphrey, a Democrat, asked Schneider if she ever regretted receiving gender-affirming care or had suicidal thoughts after her transition.

“I’ve never regretted receiving it,” Schneider replied. “It has improved my life in ways I didn’t know would. I learned who I am, and I wouldn’t be here today — in fact, if I hadn’t gotten that, I wouldn’t have been successful at” Jeopardy!’ I wouldn’t have any of the things in front of me right now.

The bill’s original draft, which was amended at Wednesday’s hearing, would have bared doctors from administering puberty blockers, hormone therapy and menopause-related surgeries to minors; prevented public funds from being used or distributed to hospitals or an organization “that provides sex reassignment procedures to any minor”; and banned Medicaid funding for gender-affirming care for minors. their gender identity to their parents.

After testimony from Schneider and a few others, the Families, Aging, and Human Services Committee passed a replacement bill that Rep. Gary Click, a Republican and one of the sponsors of the original bill, said it was an attempt to listen to critics’ concerns.

The replacement bill would prohibit physicians from performing gender-affirming surgeries on minors and referring a minor to a mental health professional “for the diagnosis or treatment of a gender-related condition” without first disclosing the referral to the parent or guardian of the child. the minor. It would also allow a doctor to prescribe puberty blockers or hormone therapy if a list of conditions are met. Among them, the doctor must confirm that the minor has previously received routine counseling for two years in connection with their transition, and the use of the drugs does not “lead to an increased risk of vaginal atrophy, penile atrophy, testicular atrophy, permanent loss of libido , sterility, endometrial carcinoma or polycystic ovarian syndrome.”

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The replacement also requires doctors who prescribe puberty blockers and hormone therapy to annually report data related to these treatments to the Ohio Department of Health, including the number of patients receiving such care, as well as their age and sex assigned at birth.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Click said the reporting requirements are an effort to collect more data on transgender people and their medical treatments in Ohio.

“We’ve made quite a few concessions, and that’s to take this to a middle ground,” Click said of the replacement bill. “Our goal is to ensure safety for those transitioning and that only those who are ready to transition do so.”

Many of those testifying Wednesday after the replacement law was passed said Click’s updated proposal would still negatively impact trans youth in the state by creating unnecessary barriers to care. Click did not immediately return a request for additional comments.

Nick Lashutka, president and CEO of the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association, said imposing a two-year waiting period for the use of medication would “create an environment where it wouldn’t be used at all.”

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He also said delaying treatment by two years would cause trans youth diagnosed with gender dysphoria to experience more depression, creating another hurdle for them to start treatment because the replacement bill requires other comorbidities to be two years prior to treatment.

Accredited medical organizations — including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Psychological Association — have supported gender-affirming care for minors.

Some families in Ohio said the bill would force them to move.

Gary Greenberg, who described himself as a retired schoolteacher, said one of his six grandchildren is seeing a therapist for treatment of gender dysphoria. As a result, if the bill becomes law, his daughter said she will have to leave the state, and told Greenberg she would take him with her.

“So here in Ohio we’ve proposed a law that would allow three generations — three — of an Ohio family to flee the state, and we’ll be the lucky ones,” he said, because they have the means to leave when many others don’t. t.

Schneider did not immediately respond to a request for additional comment on the amended bill.

Ohio is part of a wave of states that have been considering bills over the past two years to restrict gender-affirming medical care for minors. This year alone, more than 160 state bills have been introduced across the country to limit transgender rights, and 43 of those focus on transition-related care for minors, the ACLU said. Four states – Arizona, Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee – have passed laws restricting gender-affirming care for minors. Judges have blocked the enactment of the Alabama and Arkansas measures pending trial.

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This article was originally published on NBCNews.com