Ann Geddes almost lost her son, a private struggle she never expected to bare in public.
Her fears are founded. As advocates in Maryland fought for better coverage of gender-affirming health care, in neighboring Virginia some lawmakers tried to make children show a doctor their genitals as a prerequisite for playing sports — all to keep trans kids off teams.
Driven by irrational fear and destructive, political gamesmanship, 344 pieces of legislation are pending in states across the nation that target transgender people — a record, according to the Equity Federation, a nonpartisan advocacy group on LGBTQ+ legislative issues.
“We’re horrified at what’s happening in other states,” Geddes said.
So she testified for a bill that passed the House of Delegates in Annapolis this month, going before Maryland’s lawmakers to tell the story of her son and how gender-affirming health care isn’t a phase, a whim, a kink.
“From the age of 2, he wanted to be a boy,” she said. “He wanted to play ice hockey. He was the only girl on the ice hockey team, and when he played, he had a helmet on and nobody knew.”
This was during the 1990s, before Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox, before the medical term “gender dysphoria” was listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association, and before politicians tried to use transgender people to ignite a culture war.
“We understood that what we had was a butch lesbian,” she said. “Transgender was not even in our world view.”
But her bright, kind child began self-harming, with a suicide attempt at age 13 that ended in the hospital.
“He burned himself, cut himself, banged on himself with a bat,” she said. They finally found a counselor in Maryland who explained what was happening.
“This isn’t about sexual orientation. It’s about gender identity,” the counselor told them. And then the self-injury made so much sense, Geddes said. “He hated his body.”
And if the value of a person’s life wasn’t a sufficient argument, she explained further that the cost to taxpayers was staggering.
Gender-affirming care is far cheaper — if you’re just counting dollars and cents — than the trauma of not supporting care, she told Maryland lawmakers when she testified in favor of the Trans Health Equity Act.
“At a significant cost to the state, he spent nine months in a Maryland Residential Treatment Center, paid for by Medicaid,” she said, “experienced multiple inpatient hospitalizations, paid for by Medicaid, lived for one year in a residential rehabilitation program, paid for by Medicaid.”
Conservative agitators twist this logic by falsely claiming that gender-affirming health care means droves of doctors are cutting the genitals off teens. This turned into bomb threats to children’s hospitals across the nation. We had a doctor’s appointment for my son disrupted right here in Washington when there was a bomb threat last year.
No, that is not what this is about.
In Maryland, as in most states that haven’t lost their marbles to the extremists, to qualify for any kind of surgery, patients must be at least 18, and they must have a diagnosis of gender dysphoria. They also need to have had at least one year of continuous hormonal therapy that was recommended by a mental health professional. And after all that, they still need two referrals from a mental health professional before any surgery.
The Maryland bill that Geddes testified for simply expands coverage by Maryland Medicaid for gender-affirming treatments, including hormone therapy, hair alteration, voice therapy, physical alterations to the body and fertility preservation.
By now, her son has done all of this. They waited to do any gender-affirming therapy until he was an adult, and she believes that extended his mental health struggle, as he continued to harm himself, bind his breasts and suffer.
“When he started taking testosterone as a 19-year-old, his mental health issues stopped,” she said. “He got a double mastectomy, no more self-harm.”
Her son is now 33, married and a successful software engineer.
The Maryland Trans Equity Bill still has to pass in the Maryland Senate and be signed by the governor before it becomes law.
Geddes and her son are not usually public advocates. Their identities aren’t about his gender identity.
But she decided to testify because this unprecedented wave of anti-trans legislation across America — one bill in Maryland, 11 in Virginia, 46 in Texas — is born out of fear and fueled by politicians looking for wedges in their culture war.
Last year, the Equity Federation tracked 110 anti-trans bills that ranged from “athlete bans to bathroom bills, from ‘Don’t Say Gay or Trans’ school bills to medical care bans," said communications director Jenn Curtin.
“The impact of these bills and the dehumanizing discourse advanced in legislative hearings and in the media is devastating for transgender people, their families and our community as a whole,” Curtin said.
Our analysis showed 155 anti-trans bills in 2022 and 131 in 2021. Here’s a sobering look back: In 2015, the Human Rights Campaign issued a report: the “Unprecedented Onslaught of State Legislation Targeting Transgender Americans.” They found 15 bills.
Want to talk about real fear? Talk to the parents of a trans kid who is cutting on himself.