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Oklahoma Senate Republican wants life in prison for those providing gender-affirming care for young people

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Sen. Warren Hamilton
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Oklahoma Sen. Warren Hamilton, R-McCurtain, on the floor of the state Senate on March 9, 2021.

Calling health care workers who provide gender-affirming care to trans children "at best, delusional, and at worst, demonic," a Republican state senator on Monday said he plans to file a bill that would punish providers with penalties as harsh as life in prison.

"Oklahoma statute makes provisions for a life sentence in cases of the most egregious child abuse, which this clearly is," said McCurtain Republican Sen. Warren Hamilton in a statement.

According to Hamilton's statement, his proposed legislation could also target parents and guardians for the same punishment for securing such care for their children. It would also ban gender-affirming care even for adults under 21 years old.

Advocates for LGBTQ+ young people quickly pointed out the toll such legislation can take, even when not ultimately passed.

"Given all that we have learned and all that we have seen in the last few legislative sessions about the impact of even just discussing these bills on the mental health of some of our most vulnerable young people in the state — to see this pushed so enthusiastically and so early by Sen. Hamilton is certainly concerning," said Nicole McAfee, executive director for the nonprofit advocacy group Freedom Oklahoma.

"Our legislature has shown us time and time again that they are willing to put aside best-practice medical advice, they are willing to put aside the safety of vulnerable young people to politicize trans and gender-nonconforming identities," McAfee said.

"This is a combination of physical and mental health care that ensures that trans kids live to be trans adults," they said.

"Sen. Hamilton also refused to vote yes on any of the abortion bans because they didn’t go far enough," Cindy Nguyen, policy director for the ACLU of Oklahoma, noted in a tweet. "The lawmakers attacking medical providers and patients seeking abortions are the same ones going after 2SLGBTQ+ children."

In a recent guest column in the Oklahoman newspaper, Nguyen noted the increased hostility toward trans youth following last legislative's session, which included bills banning trans women and girls from school sports and restricting access to restrooms.

"These attacks won’t stop with the chipping away of the rights of our trans, Two Spirit and nonbinary youths; they will continue to attack our rights to body autonomy, to marry whom we love and to vote," Nguyen wrote.

Affirming mental health support for LGBTQ young people is available through the Trevor Project. Their hotline is 866-488-7386, and help is also available through thetrevorproject.org. Peer support and crisis intervention is also available via the Trans Lifeline by calling 877-565-8860.

Chris joined Public Radio Tulsa as a news anchor and reporter in April 2020. He’s a graduate of Hunter College and the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, both at the City University of New York.