Ohio’s Dangerous Twist on Transgender Care Bans: Erroneous Mental Health Screenings

In a disconcerting development, Ohio is the latest state attempting to join the alarming trend of banning gender-affirming care for transgender youth. House Bill 68, currently under legislative consideration, carries an unexpected, troubling clause unseen in similar bills across the nation. This provision mandates a screening process to determine the “influences” or “causes” of being transgender. Yes, you read that right.

Before diagnosing a patient with gender dysphoria, therapists would be obliged to check for other potential “causes” for a person’s transgender identity. This includes conditions like anxiety, depression, and autism. However, this provision flagrantly contradicts established scientific consensus: none of these conditions “cause” someone to be transgender.

It’s crucial to understand that while a slight correlation may exist between autism spectrum disorder and gender dysphoria, it is not causal. There is absolutely no evidence that being on the autism spectrum triggers individuals to identify as transgender. As Dr. Varun Warrier, a researcher at the University of Cambridge, explains, “Just because these things can co-occur does not mean that one should be denied.”

The “causes” for being transgender as listed in the bill include ADHD, Autism, Anxiety, Depression, Physical, Mental, and Emotional Abuse, and Trauma. This new screening process does not open doors to gender-affirming care for transgender youth; it raises a substantial barrier to accessing even basic mental healthcare.

Here’s the kicker: these provisions essentially enforce a form of “gender exploratory therapy.” Sound innocuous? It’s anything but. This new type of conversion therapy is peddled by Christian conversion therapy organizations like the American College of Pediatricians, a hate group as per the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The goal of gender exploratory therapy? Delay. Delay gender-affirming care for transgender people while supposedly “exploring” various reasons for their gender identity. It’s a chilling echo of crisis pregnancy centers—most of these therapists never authorize gender-affirming care or diagnose gender dysphoria. Their objective is to drag the process out until the individual either ages out of care or relinquishes the idea of transitioning.

HB 68, if passed, would make Ohio the 20th state to outlaw gender-affirming care for transgender youth. It not only bans gender-affirming surgeries but also puberty blockers and hormone therapy. It restricts mental healthcare and compels therapists to delve into the private lives of transgender individuals, seeking potential “causes” of their gender identity.

While many states have unfortunately passed gender-affirming care bans this year, Ohio remains one of six Republican states that have been slower on the uptake. Wyoming and New Hampshire have entirely defeated their bans, and West Virginia has created significant exceptions for transgender youth to continue receiving care. In contrast, states that haven’t passed such bans are moving towards protecting transgender individuals’ care from out-of-state prosecution or investigation.

Ohio now teeters on the edge of a precipice, caught between pioneering a disturbing approach to targeting transgender individuals with discriminatory laws or defeating the bill entirely. For transgender individuals and their loved ones, it’s an agonizing waiting game.