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Bishop: Keeping it Weird

Thursday, July 06, 2017

 

Governor Gina Raimondo

Some people think the legislative session ended weirdly. But at least its over, which is a blessing to us all because, as Gideon Tucker said, no man’s life, liberty or property is safe while the legislature is in session.

While we were spared the worst of what the legislature had in store for us, sadly, several awful bills await the Governor’s signature. One can only hope she isn’t so focused on identity voters that she stops to think twice before signing H5277, a bill that inappropriately conflates treating gender dysphoria, i.e. identifying as other than one’s biological gender, with “conversion therapy” for homosexuals.

The preamble to this legislative disaster rambles on at length about what the American Pyschiatric Association (APA) has to say on the topic. The APA long ago removed homosexuality from its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.  But the latest edition, the DSM-5, retains and explains Gender Dysphoria. The authors of this legislation clearly cherry picked the APA.

Therapy for children, according to the current statement on the APA website: “may focus primarily on affirming psychological support, understanding feelings and coping with distress, and giving children a safe space to articulate their feelings. For many children the feelings do not continue into adolescence and adulthood.”

In fact, the APA Handbook of Sexuality and Psychology reports a 75% desistance rate, i.e. young children who expressed a transgendered identity but following puberty retraced their steps and found comfort in their biological gender. (of those who do desist, a noticeably larger fraction than in the general population express homosexual orientations, which the APA recognizes as entirely different from gender identity.)

Does that mean, you wonder, that the APA opposed this bill.  After all, this finding that youthful gender identity could change was the precise opposite of the APA findings quoted by H5277 with regard to ‘reparative’ therapy for homosexuality: “in the last four decades, ‘reparative’ therapists have not produced any rigorous scientific research to substantiate their claims of cure.

You would think the APA would stand up against the state inserting itself in the doctor patient relationship in an area where resolution has been documented. You’d be wrong, but another liberal organization, the ACLU, did have the good sense to recognize the looming danger of this legislation.

The ACLU objected to the state banning psychologists’ speech, suggesting that courts skirting the 1st amendment by finding this ban covers “professional conduct” subject to regulation are on a slippery slope. The ACLU didn’t cut quite to the chase, so allow us to help.

The right to an abortion is currently secured because the medical choices arrived at between doctor and patient are protected. What if some state were to ban reproductive termination therapy, i.e. abortion, on the basis that they were regulating “professional conduct." In fact, that is regularly undertaken. The only thing that stands between such a law and constitutionality based on the state’s police power is the privacy of the relationship between the doctor and patient. The ACLU gets that. Apparently no one else in the progressive camp got the memo.

But forgetting that contentious arena, it seems quite likely that other states could ban conversion therapy of another sort, the sort celebrated by the gender identity affirmance movement. The affirmance protocol involves not simply helping children presenting with gender dysphoria deal with distress while they resolve their gender identity, but actually administering hormonal treatment to suppress puberty and the expression of their biological gender, simultaneously sterilizing the child. Such treatment, which in the abstract could be characterized as child abuse, might be appropriate as determined by a psychologist and the child’s parents where there is marked persistence of gender dysphoria and clear commitment of the child to transition.

One can hardly imagine that the approach taken by Rhode Island legislators is legitimate and dismiss the possibility that conversion of this other sort cannot equally be banned. Well of course, such states won’t get LGBT conventions and so forth. But if one is really concerned about the role of parents and health care professionals in solving distress in children, legislating their behavior is hardly the way to go about it.

Really, this is part of the general assault on normality. If there were no normal, then gender non-conforming children would feel less distress because there is nothing to conform to. But normalcy is what the vast majority of people cling to for mental stability. If one vanquishes norms, that is a full employment act for the APA. It isn’t that being outside the norm – as long as one is not outside the law – is wrong. It simply isn’t normal.

There is one place in the world that they get this and would that the rest of us woke up. There is a reason that the slogan is “Keep Austin Weird” and not “Make Austin the Norm”. Theirs is an expression of people who are proud to be different – not distressed to be different. They ask not to be forced to conform, but they don’t ask everyone else to act like them.  They revel in being considered weird.

Of course young children are not particularly progressive agents and their herd instincts can kick in, especially when distinguishing differences in their peers. But a place like Austin can remind us that protecting children from stigma and bullying is a worthy cause, because there is nothing wrong with being different. The idea that we instead could erase differences -- treating biology as some kind of prison from which we all must be freed -- is a ridiculous lowest common denominator solution. 

One hardly need be a religious fundamentalist to find a natural law in our biology, to acknowledge the norms so established. We should prevent a hegemony that would effectively force a family or their medical counselors to choose transition or desistance for children. It would be a brave act of the Governor to acknowledge these truthes and the errors of H-5277 and consign it to the dustbin of this weird legislative session with a veto. 

 

Brian Bishop is on the board of OSTPA and has spent 20 years of activism protecting property rights, fighting overregulation and perverse incentives in tax policy. 

 

Related Slideshow: FY18 House Finance Budget

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WINNER

CCRI

The state's community college is poised to be the sole beneficiary of the Governor's Promise scholarship program.

It would make Rhode Island the fourth state to have tuition-free community college, allowing every resident the opportunity to earn an associate's degree tuition free. There is no means testing for the program and few standards.

The cost would be roughly $3 million in the FY18 (for the first cohort of students) and then $6 million the following year there are two classes. 

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LOSER

State Government 

As part of negotiations -- and the fiscal realities facing Rhode Island with a nearly $140 million shortfally, the Speaker announced Thursday that $25 million will be cut in general spending.

"It's something we discussed with the Governor and she thinks she can make [it] work," said Matteillo. 

Also on the chopping block -- funding for the legislative office to the tune of $2 million. 

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WINNER

Elderly and Disabled Bus Riders 

After levying fares on some of the most needy RIPTA bus riders (the elderly and disabled) for the first time this past year, which resulted in strong public outcry, the House Finance budget contains just over $3 million  -- for each of the next two years -- to refund the program this coming year. 

WATCH: Opponents of RIPTA Fare Hikes to Rally at RI State House Wednesday Afternoon

Mattiello noted that after the two years is up, it is up to the Governor to find the funding. 

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TIE

Governor Raimondo

On Thursday, Raimondo learned she is poised to get a piece (jCCRI) of her free college tuition proposal, which had been a major focal point of her budget proposal - and political strategy. 

On the flip side, she is tasked with finding $25 million in government spending to cut, in order to balance the budget. 

Unlike the May estimating conference, where Rhode Island revenues were found to be off nearly $100 million plus, the Governor can't say she didn't see this  coming.

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LOSER

Medical Marijuana Expansion

In June, Raimondo called for an increase in medical marijuana dispensaries and an increase in licensing fees to generate $1.5 million in revenue for the state. 

She called for "no less than six licensed compassion centers."

On Thursday, Mattiello said it was not in the budget, due the proposal's late timing.

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WINNER

Davies High School

The House finance budget contains additional help for manufacturing, including $3.6 million to upgrade facilities at Davies Career and Tech.

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LOSER

Commerce Corporation

While Mattiello made scant mention of cuts in the briefing Thursday - save for the $25 million out of government spending -- the question was raised as to where the rest of the $140 million shortfall will come from. 

"Millions in cuts came from the Commerce Corp budget. The budget kept the Rebuild RI funding, but money for several other Commerce programs were reduced," said Larry Berman, spokesman for Mattiello. 

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TIE

Mininum Wage Hike

Workers will be happy, employers might not. 

The FY18 budget proposal calls for a $.50 minimum wage increase as of January 1, 2018, and then an additional $.40 the following year.

Business owners have continuously fought against such hikes. 

 
 

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