“Jeopardy!” champ Amy Schneider testifies against Ohio transgender care ban

“Jeopardy!” champion Amy Schneider tested before an Ohio House of Representatives committee meeting Wednesday against a bill that would restrict gender-affirming medical care for minors.

Schneider, the first transgender contestant to qualify for the “Jeopardy!” Tournament of Champions and an Ohio native, said she didn’t attend the meeting to “demonize supporters of this bill or to claim that they want children to be harmed.”

“I truly believe that all of us here have the same goal: to keep Ohio’s children safe and healthy,” she said.

But, she added, the “Save Adolescents From Experimentation (SAFE) Act” — which seeks to restrict doctors’ ability to provide puberty blockers, hormone replacement therapy and gender-affirming surgery to minors — would put some children “in grave danger, and a danger that not all of them would survive.”

Schneider said she knows this in part due to her own experience. She said that today her life is “beyond my wildest dreams” after she won $1 million on “Jeopardy!,” becoming the show’s top female earner); visited the White House; and married her wife, Genevieve, in May.

“And yet, if all those things remained just as they are now, and the only thing that was changed was that I was told that I could no longer access hormone therapy, I don’t know that I could go on living,” Schneider said.

She said that for her entire life prior to coming out as trans, she felt like “there was this quiet alarm going off in the back of my head” that said “danger, danger.” After receiving gender-affirming care, “for the first time in my life, that alarm went silent, and I knew peace and quiet for the first time.”

Schneider, who was one of more than a dozen people to testify Wednesday, said trans youth who have access to gender-affirming care will have the opportunity to achieve that same peace.

“So what I’m asking here today is please don’t take that away from them,” she said. “Please don’t force them to go back to that constant feeling of wrongness and danger. I’m not asking anyone here to change your personal views on trans people. I’m not here to scold anyone about pronouns. I’m not asking you to do anything except to not pass a ban that is expanding the government’s reach, to not restrict the freedom of families and doctors and communities to decide for themselves what their children need.”

Rep. Latyna Humphrey, a Democrat, asked Schneider if she has ever regretted receiving gender-affirming care or experienced suicidal thoughts after her transition.

“I’ve never regretted receiving it,” Schneider responded. “It has improved my life in ways I didn’t know it was going to. I have learned who I am, and I wouldn’t be here today — in fact, if I hadn’t gotten that, I wouldn’t have been successful on ‘Jeopardy!’ I wouldn’t have any of the things going for me right now.”

The original draft of the bill, which was amended at Wednesday’s hearing, would have prevented doctors from providing puberty blockers, hormone therapy and transition-related surgery to minors; barred public funds from being used or distributed to hospitals or any organization “that provides gender transition procedures to any minor”; and banned Medicaid funding for gender-affirming care for minors. Advocates say it also would’ve required school staff to out students questioning their gender identity to their parents.

After testimony from Schneider and a few others, the Families, Aging, and Human Services Committee adopted a substitute bill that Rep. Gary Click, a Republican and one of the original bill’s sponsors, said was an effort to listen to the concerns of critics.

The substitute bill would prohibit physicians from performing gender-affirming surgery on minors and from referring a minor to a mental health professional “for the diagnosis or treatment of a gender-related condition” without first disclosing the referral to the minor’s parent or guardian. It would also permit a physician to prescribe puberty blockers or hormone therapy if a list of conditions are met. Among them, the physician must confirm the minor has previously received routine counseling for two years related to their transition, and the use of the medications cannot “result in an increased risk of vaginal atrophy, penile atrophy, testicular atrophy, permanent loss of libido, sterility, endometrial carcinoma, or polycystic ovary syndrome.”

The substitute also requires physicians who prescribe puberty blockers and hormone therapy to annually report data related to these treatments to the Ohio Department of Health, including the number of patients receiving such care, as well as their ages and sex assigned at birth.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Click said the reporting requirements are an effort to gather more data on transgender people and their medical treatments in Ohio.

“We’ve made quite a few concessions, and that’s to bring this to a middle ground,” Click said of the substitute bill. “Our goal is to ensure safety for those who transition and that only the people who are ready for transition transition.”

Many of those who tested Wednesday after the substitute bill was adopted said the updated proposal introduced by Click would still negatively impact trans youth in the state by creating unnecessary barriers to the care. Click did not immediately return a request for additional comment.

Nick Lashutka, president and CEO of the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association, said that imposing a two-year waiting period for the use of medication “would create an environment where it would not be used at all.”

He also said delaying treatment for two years would cause trans youth diagnosed with gender dysphoria to experience more depression, which would create another hurdle for them to begin treatment, because the substitute bill requires other comorbidities to be treated for two years before treatment.

Accredited medical organizations — including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association — have supported gender-affirming care for minors.

Some Ohio families said the bill would force them to move.

Gary Greenberg, who described himself as a retired educator, said one of his six grandchildren is seeing a therapist for treatment of gender dysphoria. As a result, if the bill becomes law, his daughter said she will have to leave the state, and she told Greenberg that she would take him with them.

“So here we have proposed law in Ohio that would cause three generations — three — of an Ohio family to flee the state, and we will be the lucky ones,” he said, because they have the resources to leave when many others don’ t.

Schneider did not immediately respond to a request for additional comment about the amended bill.

Ohio is part of a wave of states that have considered bills to restrict gender-affirming medical care for minors over the last two years. This year alone, more than 160 state bills to restrict trans rights have been proposed across the country, and 43 of those target transition-related care for minors, according to the ACLU. Four states — Arizona, Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee — passed laws restricting gender-affirming care for minors. Judges have blocked Alabama’s and Arkansas’ measures from taking effect pending litigation.

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This article was originally published on NBCNews.com

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