As Nebraska’s new law restricting gender-affirming care for minors goes into effect this weekend, families with transgender children and the doctors who treat them are facing an uncertain future. The law, set to be implemented on Sunday, bans gender-affirming surgery for anyone under 19 and imposes restrictions on nonsurgical treatment for minors. However, a critical aspect of this law is the absence of clear treatment guidelines, leaving affected families and healthcare professionals in limbo.
The lack of communication from health officials regarding the creation of these guidelines has left many families, doctors, and lawmakers frustrated and anxious. It appears that Republican officials, who hold sway over the law’s administration, may be intentionally delaying the regulations, potentially blocking gender-affirming care for transgender patients under 19, as per Nebraska law.
Heather Rhea, a resident of Lincoln with a 17-year-old transgender daughter, expressed her concerns, stating, “There has been no communication, no press release, nothing on the website about where they are in the process or a timeline for when we’ll know when kids can get gender-affirming care.” This lack of clarity is causing distress among families seeking support for their transgender children.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends gender-affirming care for individuals under 18, citing the elevated risk of suicide among transgender teens. However, the new Nebraska law restricts access to such care, allowing only those minors who have demonstrated “a long-lasting and intense pattern of gender nonconformity or gender dysphoria” to undergo puberty-blocking or hormone treatment. These guidelines are expected to be drafted by Dr. Timothy Tesmer, the state’s newly appointed chief medical officer and a political appointee of Republican Gov. Jim Pillen.
The uncertainty surrounding the implementation of this law has led some individuals, like 17-year-old Nola Rhea, to plan their future outside of Nebraska. Nola, a high school senior, intends to leave the state for college in Minnesota, where protections for gender-affirming care are already in place. The passage of the new law has left her feeling unwelcome in her home state.
Nebraska lawmakers’ recent actions, including the contentious battle over the proposed transgender health care ban, have raised concerns among transgender individuals about their safety and well-being. Many fear that these legislative measures could escalate, potentially making it even more challenging for transgender individuals to access the care they need.
Dr. Alex Dworak, an Omaha family physician with over a decade of experience treating transgender patients, has witnessed numerous patients leaving the state out of fear for their safety. He noted that this exodus aligns with the goals of those advocating for such restrictive legislation.
Despite some hopeful expectations for the swift drafting of treatment guidelines by Dr. Tesmer, as of now, no emergency rules have been announced, leaving many transgender individuals and their families in a state of uncertainty. The Department of Health and Human Services has remained tight-lipped on the matter, leaving the public without crucial information.
With at least 22 states enacting similar laws restricting or banning gender-affirming medical care for transgender minors, the battle for transgender rights continues to unfold. Nebraska’s law mirrors others facing legal challenges, and the future of transgender healthcare in the state remains uncertain as the legal and healthcare communities await further developments.