Thank you, Chairperson and Members of the Committee of Health and Human Services, for allowing me to testify today.
My name is Dr. Meghan Sheehan, a CL Psychiatrist, and I am here to voice my opposition to LB 574. I have a background in medical ethics, having previously served as the former Clinical Chair of the Ethics Committee at UNMC.
One of the most important developmental goals is gaining a sense of who we are in this world. That identity formation includes gender identity. It is a normal developmental process. This can involve ideas of gender that differ from traditional societal norms such as gender diversity, expansiveness, creativity, or nonconformity. There exist many other gender variations such as gender neutral, gender fluid, gender queer, and agender. Children and adolescents may consistently identify with a gender that is different that that assigned at birth and that is what we term transgender.
I want to highlight something I said, “traditional societal norms.” Societies are ever evolving, and norms are constantly rewritten. Do not think that because the terms are new and the public awareness is greater, that the development of gender identity itself has changed. In other words, it is the traditions, not the people who have changed.
In point, I work with many older adults who have such regret over a life led falsely. I see the disruption and heartache when gender formation and identification is stifled.
I also work with the youth that this bill will affect. The idea of denying something so deeply personal as the sense of who you are is cruel. LB 574 is not a neutral decision to “let them grow”. The onset of puberty and development of secondary sex characteristics and menses is unwanted and devastating. If a child says, “you are hurting me”, you stop. Well, the youth of Nebraska are here to say clearly and bravely, “you are hurting me.”
When looking at mental health disparities we find that the percentage of transgender identifying individuals considering suicide is 30.8% compared to herterosexual identifying persons at 2.3%. However, tans affirming treatment, such as puberty suppression, is related to relief of emotional distress and ratings on social and academic functioning to again raise to the level of their peers.
The American Psychiatric Association fully supports the use of medications to suppress the onset of puberty and allow the adolescent more time for cognitive and emotional development, and possibly continuing with the gender affirmation process. Referrals for services for educational and social support for both patients and families should be made, as well as treatment of any co existing mental health concerns.
Furthermore, I strongly oppose any effort to criminalize or penalize physicians for providing evidence-based care for their patients, such as outlined by WPATH (World Professional Association For Transgender Health). Physicians must be able to practice medicine that is informed by their years of medical education, training, experience, and the available evidence, freely and without threat of punishment. The patient, their parents, and the physician should be the ones to make these decisions, not policymakers.
I ask that you oppose this harmful legislation that restricts care and criminalizes medicine.