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More states pass laws to restrict or ban gender-affirming care for transgender kids

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

When a child comes out as transgender, the type of support they can get depends, first of all, on their parent or guardian, and increasingly in America, which state they live in. Many medical groups, including the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, endorse gender-affirming care for trans kids - treatments like puberty blockers and hormone therapy. But several states have laws restricting or banning it. Yesterday, Kentucky's legislature overrode a governor's veto, and now it's law. And last week, it was Iowa. Matt McIver, a parent of a trans kid in Des Moines, wants to speak out on this issue while still protecting his child.

MATT MCIVER: The circumstances in the state have changed. And it's a different environment than it was even a week ago. We have a really brave kid who has been very public and very active. But I also don't want to make them feel like this is the only thing in their lives.

FADEL: He says his kid is smart, funny, takes ukulele lessons, circus classes. And before Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed the ban, McIver met with her to ask her not to. Afterward, at a press conference, the governor said this about families with trans kids.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KIM REYNOLDS: My heart goes out to them. I know how difficult this is. This is an extremely uncomfortable position for me to be in, you know? I don't like it. But I have to do what I believe right now is in the best interest of the kids.

FADEL: What do you make of that comment?

MCIVER: Well, I would hope that it would be hard for her to strip away the rights of parents. I would hope that it would be hard for her to pass a bill that the medical associations say will lead to harm of transgender kids. I would hope that it would be uncomfortable for her to attack a vulnerable community the way this bill does. I hope that those things are true. She did it anyway. And that was heartbreaking and disappointing, to be honest with you. There isn't a medical association in the United States that thinks that this bill will help children.

FADEL: Where were you when you found out that this bill had become law, that the ban was enacted?

MCIVER: I was in a rehearsal. I'm a artistic director for the Iowa Stage Theatre Company. We have a show opening March 31. And I was in rehearsal for that show. And I'll be honest with you, Leila, I stood up, and I walked out of the rehearsal. And I just - I had to stand outside. And I had to try and walk it off because this is a bill that endangers kids I know and love. This is a bill that makes our state a less welcoming state. This bill is a massive step backwards for the state of Iowa and awful for the LGBTQ+ community. I'm grateful that we're - our family is in a position where we're privileged that we can do what we need to do for our kids no matter what. But there are a lot of families that aren't.

FADEL: What does that mean, though, when you think about the future of your family, of your child, and decisions you might have to make?

MCIVER: Well, it means that, you know - one of the things that I've learned in the last year about transgender identity is that, really, No. 1, it's incredibly individual. And No. 2, it's a journey. There is a process of exploration. You know, what we see with this bill is the state trying to tell people what medical care they can get and how to live their lives rather than allowing us the liberty as Americans to determine our own way. You know, other states are preparing to deal with an influx of folks from Iowa who still need medical care that is now banned in the state of Iowa.

FADEL: Has this ban - not just this ban, the bans in other states as well and states that are considering it, has it made you think about where you should live in this country? Will you stay in Iowa? Are you thinking, in the future, maybe it's not the place for your family?

MCIVER: I shared with the governor, you know, my wife is a native Iowan. My children are native Iowans. But I'm an Iowan by choice. And I was here when the Varnum decision in 2009 legalized gay marriage in the state of Iowa ahead of the Obergefell decision at the Supreme Court. There was a lot about this state that was welcoming and accepting 15 years ago. It's a different power structure now. It's a different legislature and governor now. But we do think about, is this the right place long term for us and our family? I already know people who've moved.

FADEL: How has your son weathered all of this as he's watched a political fight over what his doctor can provide for him and which bathroom he can use?

MCIVER: You know what? It's - he's a brave kid and a smart kid. And overall, I mean, as well as we can help, I think there's a lot of kids whose situation is more precarious for various reasons. And those are the kids that I worry most about.

FADEL: Matt McIver of Des Moines, Iowa. Thank you so much.

MCIVER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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