Oklahoma Bill Threatens Transgender Rights

Oklahoma State Senator Warren Hamilton’s OK Senate Bill 676 aims to criminalize gender-affirming medical care for transgender citizens under 21–and this is not OK


Delaney McCorkle

An illustration of a silhouette of a person standing in front of the transgender pride flag.

by Delaney McCorkle, Editor-in-Chief

In January, Oklahoma State Senator Warren Hamilton introduced the OK Senate Bill 676 aiming to criminalize medical care related to gender reassignment for transgender individuals in the state of Oklahoma under the age of 21.

In a press release, Hamilton explained that he believes that those under drinking and smoking age are not mature enough to make life-altering decisions like transitioning genders; however, if passed, this bill would be detrimental to both the transgender people affected by it and to the progress in transgender rights nationwide. 

Transgender individuals, defined as those who align with a gender different than the one they were assigned at birth based off of their sex, may choose to go through legal, medical, and social transitions; legal transitioning includes changing the name and pronouns on legal documents to those that the individuals feel align with their gender, and social transitioning involves coming out to friends and family and asking them to use those names and pronouns

Hamilton’s bill is focused on blocking a transgender individual’s right to medically transition, which many trans people choose to do in order to feel more aligned with their gender; medical transitioning can also help alleviate gender dysphoria, which is often extremely beneficial to the recipient of the medical treatment

The main goal of the bill is to halt anyone under the age of 21 in Oklahoma from receiving gender-affirming medical care; to accomplish this, it will make it illegal for people under 21 to seek gender reassignment, as well as making it so parents cannot allow or help their children (under the age of 18) receive a gender reassignment.  Doctors are also outlawed from performing any gender reassigning treatments.

A screenshot of the text of OK Senate Bill 676, which details on the restrictions the bill would put into place. (Delaney McCorkle)

If this bill is passed, it will prevent transgender individuals in Oklahoma from obtaining medical care that not only will help them feel more aligned with their body, but may also be life-saving.  According to the Human Rights Campaign and the Trevor Project, transgender people, especially transgender youth, are already at a high risk for attempting suicide because of harassment, rejection, or other factors.  The Mayo Clinic also stated that gender dysphoria can have a large negative effect on the mental health of trans individuals–so if access to medical care that helps alleviate dysphoria is eliminated, transgender individuals would not be able to receive the care needed to improve their mental health.

Hamilton’s basis for the bill is not only the ‘maturity’ of those seeking to transition–in his press release, he was quoted saying “‘so-called ‘gender reassignment’ is permanent and life-changing…[and that] people who have made this decision have markedly higher suicide rates and often live with deep regret.  The intent of this bill is to protect young people from making a decision that they will later regret.’”

Not only is this statement blatantly transphobic, as he is disparaging the validity of gender reassignment and someone’s choice to do transition, this perpetuates the inflated myth of detransitioning–that many people regret their choice to transition, when that isn’t factual.

The argument that maturity is an issue is also questionable–State Sen. Hamilton is aiming to take a personal, medical choice from those who are ages 18 through 21, as well, who qualify as legal adults and should be able to make decisions about their own body.  Along with this, if a child is unsure if they want to get surgery or are still exploring their gender identity, puberty blockers are available that slow the development of secondary sex characteristics that may not align with their gender–but the bill would criminalize any medical treatment to “suppress the development of endogenous secondary sex characteristics,” as well. 

Anti-LGBTQ+ bills, unfortunately, have grown in number in 2021, showing that Okla. State Sen. Hamilton’s bill is not an isolated incident.  A similar bill to OK Senate Bill 676 was proposed in Montana, along with the transphobic “Save Women’s Sports Act.”  Horrifyingly, a ban against conversion camps was struck down in November of 2020 in Florida–implying that because of the freedom of speech, it is a therapist’s right to provide counseling that purposely tries to ‘convert’ a LGBTQ+ individual to becoming straight or cisgender. 

The fact that legislature is attempting to limit the freedoms of LGBTQ+ citizens is devastating, both to the progress towards equality that has been made and because it shows that people in power are still promoting discrimination and hate. Those who perpetuate this hate, especially members of the government, allow for others to follow suit. Transgender and queer citizens deserve equality and the ability to pursue happiness like any other American.

Oklahoma State Sen. Hamilton’s bill recognizes gender dysphoria as a medical condition, but aims to ban any medical treatment besides mental health counseling. 

A screenshot of the text of OK Senate Bill 676, which details on the definition of “gender reassignment” treatments that the bill aims to outlaw. (Delaney McCorkle)

If passed, OK Senate Bill 676 will make any attempt at gender-affirming medical treatment illegal for the recipient, the doctor, and the parent (if the recipient is a minor) – punishable by a sentence of three years to life and a fine of $20,000.  

Besides being discriminatory and detrimental to transgender mental health, OK Senate Bill 676 violates the rights that Americans declared their independence on: the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  By taking away transgender individuals’ freedom to make choices about their body, the bill may increase the likelihood of suicide attempts because of trans people’s inability to receive gender-affirming medical care.  Transitioning is about the pursuit of happiness–when someone transitions, they can feel more aligned with their body and gender identity.  According to the Mayo Clinic, those who went through hormone therapy and gender affirming surgery “[reported an] 80% significant improvement in quality of life.”

Although Washington State has clear guidelines in the Human Rights Commission that advocate for the rights of transgender Washingtonians, it is important to be aware of legislature and discrimination occurring in other states.  As a nation, Americans must work to guarantee freedom and equality for all in their country. 

To stay aware of legislation impacting LGBTQ+ rights, Freedom For All Americans provides a legislative tracker that filters bills by state and impact.

Mental health resources for LGBTQ+ youth include the Trevor Project, Trans Lifeline, and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. If you or anyone you know is struggling, please contact these resources.