This year, the Washington Legislature passed a controversial bill that will allow runaways to evade their parents and stay under state custody if the children are looking for abortions or sex change medical procedures.
Until now, state law has required the state to notify parents within 72 hours when runaways showed up in shelters — ideally within 24 hours if possible. The only exception was if the child would face abuse or neglect if the parent were notified.
Senate Bill 5599 changes that.
Now, the state has a “compelling reason” to hide the whereabouts of children from their parents if the minor is seeking or receiving reproductive health care services (including abortions) or “gender affirming treatment” — an Orwellian term that essentially means hormones or surgery to change their appearance to resemble the opposite sex. As per RCW 74.09.675, referenced in this year’s bill, runaway minors must be hidden from their families if they want to undergo facial feminization surgeries, tracheal shaves, mastectomies, breast reductions, breast implants or any combination of so-called gender affirming procedures.
If a child runs away to get these medical treatments, the state will hide them under SB 5599.
“I keep trying to come up with a word to adequately describe how heinous this bill is,” said Dawn Seaver, a parent in Vancouver who is part of a group leading a referendum to overturn SB 5599.
“Here you’ve got a gender confused kid who runs away from home and then undergoes these life-altering treatments while being cared for by a stranger. Meanwhile, they’re being deprived of their biggest advocates, the people who know and love them most, their parents.”
The effort to overturn the bill is called Referendum 101.
They need to collect 200,000 signatures by July 15 to get the referendum on the ballot to give voters the chance to reject SB 5599.
Learn more, order petitions, donate or get information on signing events at reject5599.com.
Seaver has been active on these issues since 2015. At that time, she said she was “just a mom” who happened to read in the newspaper about a decision to allow men who identify as women into locker rooms and bathrooms for girls and women.
“My daughter was 14 and that didn’t work for me,” said Seaver, who went on to co-found Informed Parents of Washington and Washington Parents’ Rights in Education.
She has since collected data on transgender issues that add nuance to a discussion that is usually seen as a simplistic “we must immediately affirm someone’s stated gender identity and allow them to explore gender even at a young age.”
What Seaver found is that the majority of trans kids will later identify with their biological sex if simply allowed to go through puberty. About 80% will desist from a transgender identity before adulthood.
“If you look at that one stat alone, why are we transitioning kids at all?” she said. “The majority of them will come out the other side. Some of them will be gay. If we let them start going through transition almost 100% of them go the whole way. Once they start down that path, they become lifelong medical patients who are sterile, who can’t enjoy intimacy. I can’t come up with the words to describe how awful it is.”
Supporters of the affirmation philosophy say that trans youth are at heightened risk of suicide. But that tragic fact needs context, too. What Seaver found is that about 75% of children identifying as trans have one or more comorbidities like anxiety or depression — and that trans people have the same suicide rate as non-trans kids with those mental health issues.
And a long-term study in Sweden — a country with a long history of support and affirmation for trans identities — found that adults who had transitioned had a suicide rate 19 times the general population.
Trans issues are complex. The science is unsettled and the impacts are clearly significant. Whatever position one has, it’s clear that allowing the state to hide children who are in the midst of gender confusion from their parents is wrong.
Signing R-101 and rejecting 5599 is the right response.
Brian Mittge can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.