Young transgender Mississippians can no longer receive standard treatments, such as puberty blockers or hormone therapy, after Gov. Tate Reeves signed the REAP Act into law Tuesday afternoon. The bill also bans minors from obtaining gender-affirming surgeries in the state, even though lawmakers admitted during debate on the House floor that no such surgeries are performed in Mississippi.
“These types of experiments often lead to a disruption of basic reproductive functions and ultimately infertility,” Reeves said at the bill signing in Jackson. “This is truly scary stuff. It’s being pushed upon our kids, and yes, their loving parents—they’re being taken advantage of.”
The bill, known as the “Regulate Experimental Adolescent Procedures Act,” bars public funds from going to “any entity, organization or individual that provides gender transition procedures to a person under eighteen years of age.”
‘An Act of Violence’
After Gov. Reeves signed the REAP Act, the North Carolina-based Campaign For Southern Equality sent out a statement from a coalition of LGBTQ+ advocates.
The Spectrum Center of Hattiesburg President Mickie Stratos decried Reeves’ decision as “an act of violence.”
Stacie Pace, a health care provider who opened at Spectrum: The Other Clinic with her husband Lee Pace in Hattiesburg in 2019, warned that trans people could die because of the new law, which took effect immediately.
“We will of course abide by the law as it stands in Mississippi and cease to provide any services to those under the age of 18,” she said in the statement. “For those who have passed this law, we truly hope that they do not understand what they have done. Because to understand the implications of this bill’s passage is to be complicit in the increased suicidality and discrimination of this vulnerable population. Our hearts are heavy with the burden of knowing what this can lead to.”
While transgender minors have significantly higher rates of suicide than their peers, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in January found that transgender teenagers who receive gender-affirming hormone treatments experience improved mental health and lower levels of depression.
‘We Simply Cannot Allow This Evil To Continue’
The governor only holds public signing ceremonies for a few select bills each year. For example, he held one in 2021 when he signed a law banning young trans students from playing on sports teams that match their gender identities.
For The REAP Act signing ceremony, Gov. Reeves invited The Daily Wire columnist Matt Walsh, who describes himself as a “theocratic fascist” and “Transphobe of the Year (2022)” in his Twitter bio.
Walsh, who is one of a number of right-wing figures who has publicly pushed for bans on health care for transgender people in states across the country over the past few years, called the bill part of a “movement.” On its website, the pro-LGBTQ Movement Advancement Project notes that “prior to 2020, not a single state had introduced legislation to ban this medical care.”
“I’m extremely encouraged to not only see this law being passed, but to see the national movement that we have been able to build, pushing back against the gender ideology madness that has a stranglehold on our society and on our children for far too long,” Walsh said on Tuesday.
“We simply cannot allow this evil to continue. We cannot tolerate it. We who are decent and rational people, we who love our children, we who recognize basic truth—and one of the most basic truths is that children who are confused about their identity need guidance, and love and clarity.”
Reeves accused trans rights supporters of twisting medical studies, though he did not specify which ones he was referring to.
“On top of the very sick things they’re pushing on our kids, they’re also actively twisting medical studies, reporting findings out-of-context and over-emphasizing results while ignoring the important fine print that comes along with them,” Reeves said. “There’s really no other way to say this, the very foundations their arguments depend upon are simply not true, and many members of the media are either unwilling or afraid to tell you what the real situation is.”
“Here’s the real situation of the relatively few studies that exist, which claim some benefits for children,” he said. “Their flaws, as often recognized by the authors, are profound, the potential benefits are totally unclear, but the negative impacts are obvious.”
Mississippi and Utah both now have bans on transgender health care in place and another ban is set to take effect in South Dakota on July 1. Similar bans in Alabama and Arkansas are currently tied up in court and are not in effect.
‘Trans People Cannot Be Legislated Out of Existence’
In the coalition statement from the Campaign For Southern Equality, Lee Pace, who is a nurse practitioner at Spectrum: The Other Clinic, said he could not “understand the hatefulness that is expended on this small vulnerable population.”
“It is clear there is no room for good faith discussion here,” he said. “We tried that, and they continue to deny what every major medical association has researched and published on this for decades. Transgender medical care is safe. It is life-saving. And it is necessary. Try as they might, trans people cannot be legislated out of existence.”
In a statement Tuesday afternoon, Human Rights Campaign Mississippi State Director Rob Hill called the bill “an outrageous attack on LGBTQ+ Mississippians and their families.”
“Like the politicians who wrote this bill, Gov. Reeves doesn’t have an ounce of medical training,” Hill said. “He is in no position to dictate the decisions that doctors and their patients make about health care. This is nothing more than an attempt to inflate his flagging poll numbers ahead of a difficult re-election campaign.”
After the bill signing, Mississippi Public Broadcasting News reporter Kobee Vance, who is non-binary, shared a message to young trans Mississippians in a Twitter thread.
“As a reporter it is my job to relay that anti-trans bills will lead to more trans suicide, but as a member of that community, I beg of anyone to not make that choice,” Vance wrote. “You are worthy of love, you are valid in your emotions, and it is not fair what is happening to you. You deserve to grow up and be the person they say you can’t become. You deserve to be happy. You deserve love.”
“Whatever rights they take from us, we can get back,” they continued. “And just sharing and caring where you can could help make that happen. … Even if life may seem darker than ever, there is light to be found. Seek out someone to support you. It’s hard going out of your comfort zone alone. But having a friend in those moments can be so reassuring.”