Arkansas Ban on Gender-Affirming Care for Trans Youth Has Implications for the Conservative Culture
By Claire Tsanatelis
On April 6, 2021, Arkansas became the first state to ban gender-affirming medical treatments for underaged Arkansans who identify as transgender. The Arkansas Save Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act also includes risks of civil litigation and stripping the license to practice from medical practitioners still offering these treatments to minors. It is only the first of what appears to be dozens of states proposing bills that would make puberty blockers and hormone replacement therapy illegal for minors with gender dysphoria.
As one would have expected, LGBTQ lobbyists of the ACLU and the Human Rights Organization are already taking action against this bill and any future state bills by preparing litigation and using “every tool at their disposal to fight against the law.” Through the lens of these activists who are supported by major institutions such as the American Psychiatric Association (APA), American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), depriving transgender youth of the decision to indefinitely or permanently
prevent puberty through hormone blockers is a human right’s issue with devastating implications, potentially leading to death or despair. The argument for this is that the already existing high suicide rates amongst transgender youths will be accelerated if they’re forced to undergo their body’s natural puberty.
The stance from conservative politicians in the deep red state of Arkansas is that “chemical castration” of children is indisputable lunacy. Why should a physically healthy child be entrusted with the decision to alter the God-given function of human biological development just because the child “feels” a certain way? A minor isn’t allowed to get a tattoo, purchase alcohol or tobacco or even vote, but somehow sterilizing themselves through chemicals and other assigned drugs that will destroy their body’s endocrine system is fine and dandy because they’re finally going to be able to express themselves. This is viewed as nothing more than demented child abuse that is antithetical to actual science and both parents and physicians are complicit.
It was assumed these views are universally understood by conservatives judging by the 20 other state bills that have been introduced this year that restrict these treatments and procedures for minors. After all, the hardcore conservative Arkansas passed this bill in a landslide through both the state’s Republican-controlled Senate and House with a 28-7 and 70-22 vote. But this bill almost didn’t pass when Governor Asa Hutchinson initially vetoed it on April 5, stating it was a “vast government overreach” and that the state legislature had gone too far. This didn’t stop the Republican-led legislature from overriding the Governor’s veto by a vote of 25-8, making this bill official Arkansas law.
Many on the left were surprised by Governor Hutchinson’s decision to deny an overt anti-trans bill, considering his track record of overriding trans protection through allowing recent bills that bar transgender women from competing in female sports. On the other hand, he’s under fire by some of the most influential people on the right, with former President Donald Trump ripping him in a statement calling him a “lightweight RINO” for softly endorsing the “chemical castration” of children.
Hutchinson has defended himself multiple times recently, with his notable appearance on “Tucker Carlson Tonight'' on Fox News, where he and talk show host Carlson clashed on the topic of his rationale behind the veto.
According to Hutchinson, this is the most extreme law in the country due to its inflexibility of interrupting the current treatment being provided by physicians that both the parents and the kids have already consented to.
“The Republican Party I grew up with believed in a restrained government that did not jump in the middle of every issue,” he said, adding that the bill is a product of the culture war in America where he will participate in the battle when necessary. But one of the big problems in conservatives’ role in the culture war is that “sometimes we’re trying to address the fear of something that isn’t happening in reality.”
Hutchinson isn’t in favor of many trans rights himself, but his loyalty to the guise of individual rights and freedom led him to make the choice to capitulate on an issue the conservative base of the country finds immoral and evil: the use of experimentation drugs on children and sex-change treatments in general. This doesn’t make Hutchinson an isolated Republican. This “culture war battle'' he suggests conservatives not dwell on is the exact battle they’ve been losing over the past 50 years as every major institution in the country has shifted to the left.
The fact that medical institutions like the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the AAP and many more are in favor of gender-affirming treatments for children, stating the long-term physical and mental health benefits backed up by their studies from the U.S research team, that is funded by the National Institutes of Health, says a lot about our current cultural climate. There is very little corporate or organizational backing for conservative issues because outside of the government, the culture operates on a strictly liberal paradigm.
The passage of SAFE is a win for conservatives, but kind of sad when you remember that only a decade ago conservatives were fighting against the legalization of same-sex marriage, only to come to acceptance with their loss on the issue by agreeing to settle on a middle ground. How did we escalate to such a widely different issue in such a short period of time?
Hutchinson is just one name written in small print on a very long list of Republicans who have abandoned fighting for conservative principles that were espoused by the founders of this nation, by transforming conservatism into small-government classical liberalism that has facilitated the radical culture shift within the past 50 years.