HUNTSVILLE, Ala — Alabama lawmakers are making moves to potentially pass a bill that would make it illegal for minors to seek transgender medical treatment. The bill has been passed by Alabama's Senate in a 23-4 to approve the measure. The bill is heading over to the state House of Representatives for approval. The house has already approved a companion bill.
One local therapist who specializes in treating people who identify as LGBT+ says she fears for the wellbeing of her clients, and young people across the state, should this bill be passed.
Dr. Sarah Mulder is a private Licensed Clinical Psychologist who's affiliated with Longwood Psychological Center. She tells us, “It’s terrifying to me to see the potential that could have for increasing rates of suicide and self-harm.”
Dr. Mulder tells our reporter, most of her clients identify as LGBT+. She says Alabama’s Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act has been a major concern in her sessions.
Dr. Mulder adds, “I have a lot of patients who are expressing a lot of anxiety and fear, either about the possibility of not being able to start medical gender transition or about that being interrupted.”
The bill would essential ban hormone therapy, puberty-blockers and gender related surgery for transgender youth who are under age 19, by making it a felony to provide this care. Dr. Mulder says, “Dysphoria, or the pain that comes from living in the body that’s not not congruent with one’s gender identity, is really acutely painful. So, telling someone ‘Hey, here’s this thing that will help. But you can’t have it-- or you can’t have it yet.’ has been really devastating, particularly for my youth who might not understand why this is happening.”
Republican Senator Shay Shelnutt of Trussville, who sponsors the bill says ‘Children aren't mature enough to make these decisions’. But, Dr. Mulder tells us that’s not how it works. Dr. Mulder says, “A child is not making a decision about their medical treatment or their gender identity alone and in isolation. You know, that’s where therapists like myself come in, who are actively coordinating care with medical providers, as well as as parents, caregivers and family.”
Medical professionals who continue to give gender care could face to up to 10 years in prison or a fine of up to $15,000.
The bill would also mean school staff and counselors are required to tell parents when if a young person tells them they may identify as transgendered.
Dr. Mulder says she fears this bill could spike already concerning issues with self-harm and suicide. She says, “Kids are going to get the idea of ‘I can’t talk to anyone about this...Suicidality, thinking about or making attempts on one’s life for transgender youth specifically are already at about 35 to 45 percent.” Dr. Mulder adds, “Kids are going to stop talking and kids are going to find other ways to alleviate that stress. The reality is that withholding medical treatment until the age of 19 or above is a lot of kids are not going to make it to that age to receive that treatment.”
Dr. Mulder leads a support group for parents of young people who identify as trans.
She says parents that she's spoken to are worried that the treatment that help save some of their kids lives will be taken away.
Studies show, it’s important for families to talk about mental health and parents, now could be the time to spark the conversation.
To connect with Dr. Sarah Mulder, contact her through her website, sarahmulderpsychology.com
Dr. Mulder is also involved with Trans Family Support Services. She tells us some of her clients enjoy the organization's support groups and youth group meetings. Find more information on how to get involved on their Facebook Page.
Need help, information, or just someone to talk to? Here’s a list of resources.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-273-8255
Crisis Services North Alabama: If you need to find comfort, compassion and empathy, please call the HELPline 24 hours a day at 256-716-1000 or text 256-722-8219 from 4pm-11:30pm.
CARE Services, Inc.: CARE provides LGBTQ teen social and support groups for ages 14-19.
PFLAG Huntsville: PFLAG Huntsville‘s stated mission is to “serve families, friends, allies, and LGBTQ persons in the Hunstville area through education, support, and advocacy.” They host peer support meetings, socials, and other events.
It Gets Better Project: National organization to empower LGBTQ youth and their families. They also have a list of national and state-by-state resources.