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Gender reassignment policy for teens draws fire in Oregon

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Jenn Burleton always stays busy, but the phones at the Portland-based Trans Active Gender Center are ringing even more than normal.

"I came out at age 12, and that was in 1966," Burleton said.

Burleton knows firsthand how difficult life can be for transgender youth or those born as one gender but who identify as another.

"It can become the most pervasive struggle of your existence," Burleton said.

That's why she co-founded the center to provide counseling and assistance for teens and their families going through gender dysphoria.

"We find kids who get early care do really, really, really well. Amazingly well," Burleton said.

She also petitioned the 12-member Health Evidence Review Commission -- or HERC -- to change the state's Medicaid policies when it comes to transgender youth. The group contains doctors and medical professionals. Its members are appointed by the governor.

HERC approved the change back in January. Now transgender youth as young as 15 years old can get state-funded counseling, puberty suppressing drugs, and even gender reassignment surgery without parental consent.

"It was shocking! This is genital mutilation," Lori Porter said of her first reaction to the change.

Porter, with the group Parent's Rights and Education, says HERC went too far.

"Minors can't get tattoos or driver licenses; yet they can get their breasts and penises cut off without their parents knowing or consenting to that?" Porter said.

She says parents are being kept out of the loop when it comes to their own children, and voters should have at least been able to weigh in.

KATU News in Portland called HERC repeatedly for more information, like how many kids have already enrolled, or how much this could cost the state. While the calls were never returned, a fact sheet was sent to the KATU newsroom shortly after the story aired.

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