‘Jeopardy!’ champion Amy Schneider tells Ohio lawmakers gender affirming care 'saves lives'
An Ohio House committee heard testimony from dozens of people, including “Jeopardy!” champion Amy Schneider, who are against a bill that would stop doctors from providing gender affirming or gender transition care to minors.
Schneider, a transgender woman who won more than $1 million as a “Jeopardy!” champion, grew up in Dayton. As she explained to the committee, Schneider said, from the moment she was born, it was as if a “quiet alarm” was going off in her head.
“Danger, danger. Clang, clang,” Schneider described.
But she said, after decades of living with that “agony,” she came out as trans and that alarm went silent. Schneider said she wanted to use her platform to oppose HB454, which would not allow people under 18-years-old to receive gender transition care.
“When I heard about that, I knew that the lives of children were at risk. Lives of children that I know personally were at risk because gender affirming health care for trans people saves lives. And I just had to do what I could to resist it,” said Schneider.
The bill was amended Wednesday to allow for gender affirming care if the minor goes through two years of counseling.
Melissa and Mikael McLaren are parents of Conner, a 17-year-old transgender woman. Melissa and Mikael voiced their opposition to the bill in committee and said their daughter was able to receive age-appropriate gender affirming care at a young age. She then went on to receive a combination of mental health counseling, puberty blockers, and hormone treatment.
Melissa McLaren said allowing Conner to get the treatment she needed allowed her to avoid some of the high-risk mental health issues advocates warn about for other trans kids who are not able to get that care.
“We never would have said that our daughter was unhappy until you saw her being affirmed for her gender and the huge difference that made in her, that she just blossomed,” said Melissa McLaren.
“It's the hand-in-glove treatment of the physical and the mental and emotional treatment that work to take away the things like anxiety and depression,” Mikael McLaren said.
Supporters of the bill, including co-sponsor Rep. Gary Click (R-Vickery), have said the purpose of the bill is to oppose medical gender transition that can lead to “irreversible damage.”
On Wednesday, Click introduced that new version of the bill that would allow gender transition care after a minor receives mental health counseling for two years.
“Used to be banned. And now we're saying, okay, let's get some counseling. You know, everyone was worried they're not going to counseling. We're saying, hey, this makes sure we have some counseling,” said Click, who added he sees the change as a compromise.
Proponents have also argued that, if mental health is the top concern, minors should not be receiving hormone treatment.
About 49 people were set to testify in person against the bill at the House Families, Aging and Human Services Committee on Wednesday, but due to time restrictions only about half were able to speak. There were nearly 300 people who submitted written testimony to the committee.
Among those who were not able to testify was Parker Parker, an 18-year-old transgender man. He said everyday a trans person goes without gender affirming care, is a day they are put into a worse situation.
“Because we're not ourselves, like we can't be ourselves. We live constantly in a body that is not ours. And when our government is putting restrictions on that, it's simply unacceptable,” said Parker.
The bill is still in committee. The legislature has until the end of this year to pass it out of the general assembly, which would require a committee vote and a vote on the House floor before doing the same in the Senate.