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Republicans Reveal Their Endgame in the Fight Over Trans Kids

This was never about children.

Gary Click stands at a lectern with other people seated in the background.
Ohio State Representative Gary Click speaks at a hearing for the Saving Adolescents From Experimentation, or SAFE, Act at the Ohio Statehouse on November 15, 2023.

In the past three years, Republican legislators have proposed and passed a dizzying series of laws prohibiting gender-affirming care for trans kids. Due to these efforts, an estimated 36 percent of trans minors live in states where such care is now banned. Now, lawmakers are opening up about their “endgame” in this crusade: banning gender-affirming care for adults, as well. In an audio meeting on X (what was formerly known as a Twitter Space) on Friday, audio from which was posted publicly, a Republican lawmaker in Michigan told other Republican lawmakers to “keep your mind open to banning this for all people. This is something that is harmful whether you’re 18, 19, 20 or older.” An Ohio state representative suggested targeting Planned Parenthoods, which he claimed “pass out hormones like candy” and therefore are “one of the places a lot of adults go.” The unusually candid and specific language confirmed what advocates who have been fighting the youth bans for years have warned: that conservative lawmakers’ professed concern about young people transitioning was never about protecting children. Instead, it is part of a political agenda meant to eliminate trans people by making it impossible for them to receive gender-affirming care.

This event, first reported by independent journalist and advocate Erin Reed, was hosted by a Republican member of the Michigan state legislature, Representative Brad Paquette, who last year introduced a ban on puberty blockers. Representative Gary Click from the Ohio state legislature, whose ban on gender-affirming care for youth was just adopted after a contentious veto override, was the one who made the remarks about where adults can obtain hormones, specifically naming several apps that serve only adults. At another point, Click said a reporter had once asked him about the consequences of bans on gender-affirming care for youth. “They said, do you feel bad because all of these states who are now blocking this procedure for children, they’re having to close down their gender clinics? And that means the adults can’t get these procedures either. I said I don’t feel bad at all if they’re trying to fund this off with the children. No, I’m actually pretty happy about it.” Click at another point acknowledged that to begin with youth bans was “taking one bite at a time, doing it incrementally.”

This plan to achieve total bans on gender-affirming care has itself not been secret. One year ago, an architect of the right’s campaign against gender-affirming care told The New York Times exactly what its plans were. Terry Schilling, president of the American Principles Project, speaking to the paper in January 2023, “confirmed that his organization’s long-term goal was to eliminate transition care. The initial focus on children, he said, was a matter of ‘going where the consensus is.’” In the strategy session on X last week, this line of attack was repeated multiple times, including by Representative Josh Schriver, the Michigan state lawmaker who urged “banning this for all people.” Lawmakers, he said, “have to be looking at the end game simultaneously, maybe even using that as a way to move a window.” Then, he continued, lawmakers should shift their rhetoric and begin to say “this isn’t just wrong for [age] zero to eighteen, this is wrong for everyone—and we should not be allowing this to happen.”

Click and Schriver may seem like right-wing extremists. Click, for example, offered a prayer over Trump at a rally: “I pray that You will protect our President and his family with a shield of faith, Lord, that shield of faith against the fiery darts of the wicked one, Lord, against that jungle journalism [that] extorts the truth and distorts honesty and integrity every single day, gets in his face with lies and mistruths and innuendos.” Schriver recently accused Michigan’s Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer of having an “alliance” with “Democrat Satanists” and celebrated X owner Elon Musk purportedly banning porn on the site (he didn’t) by tweeting the Bible verse, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.”

But Click’s and Schriver’s position on youth gender-affirming care bans fits comfortably within the Republican mainstream, and has the backing of some liberal lawmakers and voters, as well. Legislators looking to introduce similar bans now have a national anti-trans policy apparatus at their disposal, arming them with talking points, “research,” and model legislation. Click’s gender-affirming care ban had the support of the national anti-LGBTQ group Family Research Council, whose president, Tony Perkins, has said of Click, “You represent what we want to see.”

Already, some states have attempted to restrict gender-affirming care for adults through administrative policies and state agencies. In nine states, lawmakers have excluded gender-affirming care for adults from state Medicaid coverage. Florida also prohibits nurse practitioners from prescribing hormones to adults for gender transition, which is how about 80 percent of trans adults received HRT, and prohibits telehealth prescriptions. Within a month of the Florida law going into effect, five Planned Parenthood clinics in the state had stopped accepting new patients. Ohio is now in the process of instituting administrative restrictions on adult care so draconian they operate as de facto bans on adult care in the state. And now, more states are considering bans on adult gender-affirming care in 2024 than seemed possible even a few years ago. One of the reasons this seemed impossible, of course, was that proponents insisted their concern was solely with children.

Perhaps now that the strategy session on X has been publicized, that fiction about children can be fully abandoned. “Gone are the flimsy and veiled comments,” said Sam Inglot, executive director of Progress Michigan. “Now, they’re admitting to their real intention: stripping away trans people’s fundamental right to pursue the care that’s right for them.” The anti-trans lawmakers may keep their lies going, but we don’t have to repeat them. As Click said of his opposition in the session, “Everything they say is a lie. Literally everything they say on the other side.”

Maybe it’s just “jungle journalism” to suggest this, but perhaps Click was tipping us off on how to understand him.