S.C. Senate meeting times, video archives and agendas are available online. (Photo by Bridget Frame)

A South Carolina Senate committee on Thursday heard testimony from invited speakers about two contentious gender-focused bills.

One of the proposed bills before the Medical Affairs Committee would modify how individuals change the gender markers on birth certificates. It was prefiled in December 2022 and introduced to the Senate in early January.

There are no clear policies in South Carolina that prohibit using gender marker X to signify gender-nonconformity. The proposed bill would restrict gender marker changes to M or F, male or female. 

Colleen Condon, an attorney from Charleston, asked the committee to consider moving the process away from family court, where decisions have been inconsistent across the state, and instead handing it to DHEC. 

DHEC doctors would oversee a request to change the gender marker, keeping it outside a courtroom entirely. 

Cordon said leaving birth certificate changes up to courts creates inconsistencies. 

“DHEC has doctors on staff who can review medical records and provide consistency for when birth certificate changes are allowed,” Cordon said.

Another proposed bill would prohibit gender transition procedures for minors, prohibit the use of public funds for transition procedures and require school staff to tell parents or guardians if a student suggests they’re a gender other than their birth sex. 

Several speakers urged the committee to vote against the bill. 

David Bell of Charleston said his 14-year-old transgender daughter began showing signs of gender nonconformity at 3 years old. 

His daughter received age-appropriate gender-affirming care for her entire childhood but still struggled with suicidal thoughts, he said. Her mental health only improved after she started receiving puberty-blocking medicine and hormone replacement therapy. 

“Banning access to this care would hurt my family and families like mine,” Bell told lawmakers. 

Transgender youth are 2% to 2.5% more likely to be depressed and consider or attempt suicide than their peers, said Debra Greenhouse, a Columbia pediatrician.

Gender-affirming care for young, prepubescent children includes counseling and support. 

Pubescent children can be prescribed puberty blockers that pause the development of sex characteristics.

The bill, which would prohibit gender-determining procedures on children, isn’t necessary, some argued.

“In South Carolina, no one is doing gender-change surgery on minors and less than a quarter of trans folks ever have surgery, even in adulthood,” said Elizabeth Mack, a pediatric ICU physician in Charleston.  

Other testimonies agreed with the proposed bill, saying that transitioning to a different gender is dangerous.

One orthopedic surgeon, Richard McCain, urged the committee to abandon gender-affirming transition in favor of “intense psychological evaluation.”

McCain said multiple medical and academic institutions in the United Kingdom, Sweden, Finland and France have stopped prioritizing gender-affirming care and instead are focusing on mental health intervention. 

Two women who detransitioned, or reversed their initial transitions from female to male, spoke out against the bill. 

Those women say that transitioning hurt them and they wish they wouldn’t have had access to it.

Both suffered with mental health issues in childhood and transitioned outside South Carolina, in their home states.

“Changing the body is not the cure for the mind of mental suffering,” Prisha Mosley said. “We have already tried this and failed with lobotomies.”

Consideration of the two bills will continue March 29 when the committee will hear public testimony.