Transgender man testifies against two controversial bills in ND Legislature
Several bills relating to transgender youth and adults were heard Tuesday, Jan. 24, before the House Human Services Committee.
BISMARCK — Speaking with confidence, wearing a reversed ball cap and the blue, pink, and white colors of a trans flag weaved through his belt loop, Parker Leigh took the podium in a Capitol hearing room Tuesday, Jan. 24, and read from testimony on the phone he held.
Several bills relating to transgender youth and adults were heard before the House Human Services Committee, and Leigh, 28, testified firmly against them.
“As a transgender male, these bills hit home for me,” he said in an interview after the hearing.
House Bills 1332 and 1254 would hold significant implications for the transgender population in North Dakota regarding access to health care and therapy treatments, Leigh told lawmakers.
He said he has been on testosterone for almost three years. Originally from Idaho, he lives in Grand Forks and is part of a gay Pride group there.
If passed, HB 1332 would expand the types of therapy treatments social workers could offer to patients, including practices that attempt to change or repair their gender identity or sexual orientation.
The bill would reverse the current administrative ban on social workers offering patients those types of treatments, often referred to as conversion therapy.
HB 1332 is one of the most controversial pieces of legislation considered so far in the 2023 session, with 61 people signing in to testify for or against — 10 times the average number of witnesses who speak on a bill.
In his testimony, Leigh said he came from a family who supports his identity and has always cherished him for who he is. “But I have also seen firsthand from friends and family members what the impact of not being loved for who they are and being forced into conversion therapy can do,” Leigh told the committee.
HB 1332 was introduced by Rep. Brandon Prichard, R-Bismarck. “Despite what everybody is saying on it, the bill is quite simple,” Prichard told the committee. “But what it does is important.
“It expands health care options and allows individuals who are questioning their identity to speak to a counselor and ask that counselor for the care they believe they need,” Prichard testified.
In support of HB 1332, Prichard and others maintained that families should have access to whatever therapy treatments they want, even if that treatment is conversion therapy.
Prichard and others also supported HB 1254, which would prohibit health care workers from providing any practice that changes or affirms a minor’s perception of their own sex.
Restricted practices would include hormone replacement therapies, reversible puberty blockers, and vasectomies.
Testifying against the bills, Leigh said they “would be detrimental to an entire marginalized community. Conversion therapy has been discredited by every major professional association that deals with mental health in this country.”
Leigh said the bills amount to a dangerous violation of civil rights and basic health care access for young transgender individuals.
“You cannot say you are protecting kids, then proceed to pick and choose the kids you protect,” he told the committee.
“I cannot fathom what this will do to the youth. I know that if I could not be on my hormones that I’ve been on for almost four years, I can say with confidence that I would probably not be (alive today).”
Leigh said he will continue his advocacy efforts in Grand Forks, fighting for awareness, suicide prevention, and an end to discrimination for the queer community.
“Love is love,” he said in a later interview, “and love conquers all.”
The committee did not immediately act on HB 1332 and 1254. To track these bills, visit ndlegis.gov .
Isabelle Ballalatak is a reporting intern with the North Dakota Newspaper Association.