Lawmakers in South Dakota Want to “Save Youth” From “Gender Dysphoria Disease”

Yes, this is an actual bill that passed through the state's House this week.

Conservative lawmakers in South Dakota actually believe they can “save youth” from the so-called “gender dysphoria disease.”

This Tuesday, February 12, legislators in the state’s House approved HB 1108. According to Broadly, the law would make it illegal for educators at public schools to “[provide] instruction in gender dysphoria” to students in kindergarten through grade seven.

Lawmakers who sponsored the bill have gone as far as to refer to gender dysphoria as a “disease.” In an interview with South Dakota Public Radio (SDPR), Rep. Tom Pischke, a Republican who’s represented the state’s 25th district since 2017, claimed the bill “wasn’t dangerous,” nor was it “targeting kids.”

“I’d submit to you this bill actually helps to save children from this dysphoria,” Pischke added. “This bill focuses on not instructing to this disease. If a student needs counseling they should seek that and talk to their parents.”

While Pischke believes gender dysphoria is a “disease,” the World Health Organization and the American Psychiatric Association—two key authorities in the realm of mental health and wellness—disagree.

LGBTQ advocacy groups have warned against HB 1108’s dangers, especially in an age where transgender youth in America are particularly vulnerable to mental health issues and hate-motivated violence. In a statement from HRC, South Dakota ACLU policy director Libby Skarin expressed the group’s “disappointment” at reps passing the bill:

It is this type of hostility toward young transgender people from adult leaders that contributes to the high rates of depression and even suicide among transgender young people in our state. But the fight is not over. Our commitment to ensuring that transgender South Dakotans can live openly without discrimination remains strong and urges South Dakota lawmakers to stop hurting transgender youth.

HB 1108’s passage through the House comes after months of discussion of so-called “rapid-onset gender dysphoria” (ROGD) in the media.

In a July/August 2018 cover story for The Atlantic, journalist Jesse Singal, a cisgender man who’s reported extensively (and controversially) on transgender issues, explored stories of “detransitioners,” or people who realize after undergoing hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or gender-confirming surgeries that they’re not trans.

Last August, Brown University was also slammed for promoting a study about ROGD. The study was eventually pulled when other academics—cis and trans alike—pointed out clear issues with the study. One nonprofit leader from the United Kingdom even told The Telegraph that the Ivy League scholar in question used “completely flawed” methods to conduct her research.

Transgender author and biologist Julia Serano, who’s written extensively about the perils and lack of sound science behind ROGD, also penned an essay on Medium debunking the theory.

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