On June 14, the Ohio House of Representatives’ Public Health Policy Committee held its final hearing on an omnibus bill containing versions of two different pieces of legislation that could affect transgender youth in Ohio.

House Bill (HB) 68, dubbed the “Save Adolescents from Experimentation Act” by its Republican sponsors, proposes a ban on gender-affirming healthcare for trans minors in Ohio. It prohibits physicians from prescribing cross-sex hormones, puberty blockers, or gender-reassignment surgery to minors, and it criminalizes “aiding or abetting” minor patients in receiving the care out of state. 

That bill now includes language from HB 6, the “Save Women’s Sports Act,” which would prohibit transgender women and girls from competing in school sports from kindergarten through college. (For more on these and other pending legislation targeting trans youth, read this frequently updated guide from The Buckeye Flame.)

Breaking down the testimony

This year, House committees received more than 400 pieces of testimony about these bills. This testimony came from concerned citizens, advocacy organizations, medical professionals, and others. An overwhelming majority of these statements urged members to vote against the legislation, for reasons ranging from family privacy to increased risk of youth suicide.

More than 20 people showed up to the June 14 hearing, but only seven people were able to testify in the two hours that the committee chair allotted. Prior to the hearing, members of the public submitted more than 100 pieces of written testimony. One hundred of those were against and five in favor.

Mallory Golski of Kaleidoscope Youth Center testifies before an Ohio House committee on June 14.
Mallory Golski of Kaleidoscope Youth Center testifies before an Ohio House committee on June 14.

Out of all the testimony submitted to the House regarding HB 68, across four hearings, 337 statements were against the bill and 23 were in favor.

Mallory Golksi, civic engagement and advocacy manager for Kaleidoscope Youth Center of Columbus, was one of the few who got to speak at the last hearing. She questioned whether the committee members had heard enough from the people who would be most directly affected by their votes.

“I wonder how many of you, including the bill’s sponsors, have actually taken the time to talk to any transgender person, especially transgender youth, to learn about their lives and experiences,” she said.

“I have a deep concern for sentiments that have been shared today and in previous hearings regarding young people’s incompetence or inability to know themselves well enough to be trusted when they articulate who they are.”

Where things stand

On June 21, the House passed the bill, with all but two Republicans voting in favor and all Democrats voting against.

“We are talking about medical ethics,” said Rep. Gary Click, the bill’s sponsor, according to the Ohio Capital Journal. “We know that children can’t provide informed consent. They don’t have that capacity.” 

The bill now heads to the Ohio Senate.

Signal Cleveland compiled a selection of excerpts from some of written testimony submitted for the June 14 hearing. (We did not include testimony related to HB6, which can be found here.)

‘When applied to children, this practice is reckless and destructive’

Four years ago I naively believed that most of the doctors and therapists who provided services to gender dysphoric patients were looking out for the best interests of their patients. Since then, I’ve spoken with clinicians, patients, therapists, academics, and policymakers about gender medicine, and I’ve come to realize that gender medicine is not healthcare, it is an attempt to achieve a form of perfection through medicalization. While I have no desire to stop competent adults from accessing these services, when applied to children, this practice is reckless and destructive.

At some point the data will catch up to the practice and we’ll know for certain when, if ever, it is appropriate to medically change the sex of children. But given the absence of evidence, and given the clinicians’ own lack of regard for evidence-based medicine, this committee should assume its mantle as the regulator of last resort and refer HB 68 out of committee.

Corinna Cohn

‘This bill goes against the core of Christian love’

HB 68 violates God’s commandment to love our neighbors and intensifies the headwinds of contempt, bullying and scapegoating which put LGBTQ+ youth at such high risk of suicide. This bill goes against the core of Christian love.

Trans children are no danger to you. The sponsors and supporters of this bill appear to be using them as scapegoats. Legislation like this increases the risk of hate crimes. If you pass this bill, you will be putting the lives of LGBTQ+ children and youth in greater danger

Ariel Miller
Reporter and human services advocate, Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio

‘My daughter is the success story’

As the mother of a thriving transgender daughter who just got accepted into her dream college and who is living her best and fullest life, I am tired of us measuring the success of a transgender young person’s life by whether or not they are suicidal. My daughter is just one example of so many that loving our children for who they know themselves to be and providing the evidence-based gender-affirming medical care they deserve leads to happy and thriving adults.

Politicians do not know my children. They don’t know how to raise my children better than my husband and I do. With the exception of the healthcare providers on the committee, politicians do not have the education or training to know better than the 1.3 million doctors and every major medical association to override the evidence that gender-affirming care leads to happy and healthy kids. My daughter is the success story. Instead of talking about suicide, she is talking about school. Instead of being filled with misery and depression, she radiates joy and self-determination. Decisions about medical care should be left to parents, patients and medical providers. If you truly care about kids, you must vote no on House Bill 68. 

Melissa McLaren

‘Ohio would no longer be a safe, welcoming place for our 11-year-old’

Unfortunately, if HB 68 were to become a law, we would move to a state where our children could continue to thrive. Ohio would no longer be a safe, welcoming place for our 11-year-old. She is transgender and has been living as herself for four years. There is no social contagion sweeping through her elementary school. She doesn’t have a group of kids she hangs out with or a therapist who convinced her she is trans, she just IS trans.

Voting for this bill is the same as telling families such as mine we are not wanted in Ohio.

Cari and James Williams

‘Being a parent is humbling, and I finally asked myself, “What if I’m wrong?”’

Our son came out as transgender five years ago, in 2018, when he was 12. He had every reason to believe I’d be a supportive parent. I was vocal about equality and leading an LGBTQ-celebrating Christian group. But I was shocked when he came out — and I regret how I handled it. I couldn’t UNDERSTAND, so I focused on trying to understand why my son was trans. This was a mistake.

My son was withdrawing, and I could see his jaw tighten and pain in his eyes every time I used his birth name. Being a parent is humbling, and I finally asked myself, “What if I’m wrong?” That helped me focus on what my son needed: for me to believe him and accept that people are who they say they are. It was time to get some masculine clothes, take him out of his conservative religious school, and find experts to help us. That’s how I learned about gender-affirming care.

Those who support HB68, please ask yourself, “What if I am wrong? What if HB68 passes out of this committee, eventually becomes law, and I am wrong about its effect?” Because you are denying life-affirming and life-saving medical care to children. And you will be responsible for their harm.

Danielle Schultz

‘My life and the lives of every trans youth in Ohio are in your hands’

I am one of the trans kids whose medical care you’re discussing today. I just turned 17, and I’ve identified as a trans boy for four years now.

In Ohio, no one under 18 receives gender-affirming surgery. This means trans youth can only receive puberty blockers and HRT, two absolutely integral medical interventions that are only prescribed when children are consistent and both parents are in agreement with the treatment. There is no “experimentation.”

I know that I would never have made it this far without hope that I’ll be transitioning soon and finally uncover all the love and joy for my trans body. 

Please, don’t move forward with HB-68. My life and the lives of every trans youth in Ohio are in your hands.

Julian Harmon 

‘This bill will … force families to move out of this state’

None of this is new to me. I have been having to explain who my daughter is since she was a little girl in hopes to educate and shield her from the discrimination I was sure was on the horizon. My husband and I have been to almost every school board meeting in our town because most meetings are about transgender children and dehumanizing them on a public stage, and some adults in the community have specifically mentioned my daughter. 

She is only 13 years old and has had to move around to different schools to find acceptance, and now, if this bill passes, she will have to start over AGAIN. 

No one should be told what to do with their child. I know what’s best for her–you are just meeting her. Isn’t that the fight I hear from conservative parents? What about my rights as a parent of a trans child? She needs access to gender-affirming care. The government does not belong in the doctor’s office with ANYONE.

Anne Anderson

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Director of the Editors’ Bureau (he/him)
Frank is an award-winning reporter and former editor at alternative newsweeklies in Cleveland and Philadelphia. He has worked with writers of all experience levels on beat reporting, features, investigative projects and books.

K-12 Education Reporter (he/him)
Paul, a former City Year Cleveland AmeriCorps member based in a charter school, covered K-12 education for Signal Cleveland until August, 2023. Paul joined us from Cleveland Documenters, where he focused on creating infographics and civic tech to make public information more accessible. Paul is also a musician, photographer and graphic designer.