NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The conservative commentator who set off a debate about gender-affirming care for transgender youth testified in front of Tennessee lawmakers Tuesday as a bill banning these procedures moves quickly through the General Assembly.
Republican lawmakers reacted to Matt Walsh’s posts about Vanderbilt University Medical Center by demanding answers from the hospital on their policies and procedures related to healthcare for trans youth.
“She does not need hormone injections and scalpels. She needs and deserves to be protected from those child-abusing quacks and vultures who wish to exploit her confusion for their own gains,” Walsh said about a trans child seeking gender-affirming surgery.
While Republican lawmakers asked Walsh about data he has found relating to trans youth healthcare, Democrats questioned his credentials on the subject.
“The background that qualifies me to speak to this is I’m a human being with a brain and common sense and I have a soul,” Walsh said in response to questions from Rep. John Ray Clemmons, D-Nashville. “So, therefore, I think it’s a really bad idea to chemically castrate children. That is my experience. Now, it’s true I didn’t go to college, but I did go to school long enough to learn how to read. So, I can read the data for myself and that’s exactly what I’ve done.”
In response, Clemmons asked, “And for what purpose do you conduct your research and use this brain of yours?”
“I do this to protect children and keep them from being castrated and mutilated,” Walsh replied. “That’s one of the things I try to do.”
Clemmons fired back by questioning if Walsh does this to “get clicks for your publications.” And Walsh responded by wondering if Clemmons was trying to “get clicks with this interaction.”
Before the bill was moved out of committee along party lines, members of the trans community asked lawmakers to reconsider passing HB01.
“All of the doctors in my area have stopped accepting new patients out of fear for this bill,” said transgender teen Elliot Atwood. “The process is a slow one and providers are cautious. I’ve known who I am for most of my life, and still, I haven’t been able to access this kind of medical care.”
Vaniel Simmons, a youth advocate with Out Memphis, said the years before receiving gender-affirming care were excruciating.
“I woke up each day hating myself and at the end of the day wanted it to end,” Simmons said.
Bill sponsor Rep. William Lamberth (R-Portland) said he is concerned about the mental health of these children and emphasized the bill won’t restrict psychology services.
“These children are going to struggle with suicidal ideation,” Lamberth said. “Every study has shown that. Whether they go through the surgeries, or they have puberty blockers or hormones or they do not.”
Clemmons said mental illness is not inherent in the trans experience.
“With the suicide coming from third parties, we are the ones creating these problems for these children,” he said.
Clemmons and other Democrats suggested separating this bill into two: one banning hormone treatment and another banning surgeries.
That idea was not further discussed by Republicans.
However, Lamberth did say a controversial amendment to the bill classifying gender-affirming care as child abuse is no longer included in the bill.