Letters, Letters to the Editor, Opinion

Feb. 10 letters to the editor

HB 2007 is bad for West Virginia

We all envision a West Virginia where every child is safe. We all envision a West Virginia that is thriving; that our young people want to stay in and that people want to move to. HB 2007, which just passed in the House of Delegates, stands in opposition to those things.

I have been a social worker in West Virginia for 10 years, and we have a real problem with the safety of our children. One in six students face hunger in this state. Our teachers and social workers are drowning. Yes, we have problems. There are 100 things that our state Legislature could work on today that will make kids safer in a tangible way.

According to a recent study, one in five transgender and nonbinary youth attempted suicide in 2022. HB 2007 is a bill that would ban life-saving, evidence-based medical treatment for transgender and gender non-conforming youth. This bill is not about protecting youth — it is about othering youth and adults who diverge from the “norm,” and it will have tragic outcomes.

The Legislature is working on plans that could reduce the income tax and could potentially bring people here — great. Passing legislation that punches down on children goes against getting people to move here. People from surrounding states who want lower taxes don’t want to move here when we pass laws like this.

Lawmakers are telling brilliant transgender minds who work to make West Virginia better, and teachers and providers who stand with trans kids, “You’re not welcome here.” We need ‘em! West Virginia is hemorrhaging population and we can’t afford it.

Speaking last week on this issue, an advocate said, “Never forget that Jesus Christ was killed by the state.” This bill is a slippery slope of government overreach and control into the lives of our citizens.

If mountaineers are always free, then I implore you to contact your state senators and ask them to vote “no” on HB 2007.

Caitlin Sussman

Put surplus toward readying kids for jobs

I would like a little extra walking around money just like everyone else. But I’m not willing to sacrifice the future of our state in order to receive a small tax reduction.

By holding the line on the state budget the last few years, the state has failed to serve the residents of the state well. Our student test scores fell off the desk. We are short certified classroom teachers, short nearly 1,000 correction officers and have difficulty recruiting child protection service workers because of low pay.

Those in Charleston want to recruit workers into West Virginia by reducing the state income tax. But West Virginia has the lowest workforce participation rate in the country (55.1%). All of our neighboring states are over 60% while the national average is 62.3%. If West Virginia were at the national average, 56,000 additional residents would be employed. But we have failed to prepare our students for a career after high school.

Fifty-four percent of our high school graduates don’t go on to college. I suggest the state take $14 million or so out of its $1 billion-plus surplus to employ an additional counselor in each high school who will focus their time on helping the non-college-bound students secure enrollment in a community college, trade school, VOTEC centers, career college, etc.

Our state colleges and universities have failed to serve the state well by not steering students to those fields of study where graduates are needed in West Virginia — nursing and med techs, school teachers, correction and public safety officers and CPS workers. Nationally, 25% of college freshmen haven’t decided on a major while 75% of students change their major while in college. The state should take some funds from that huge budget surplus and employ additional career counselors at our colleges and universities.

Dennis Poluga

Don’t deny kids proven medical treatments

Children with an uncommon condition are being killed by West Virginia elected officials.

Imagine you are a minor taking medication to treat a debilitating condition that heightens your risk of early death. Suddenly, your elected officials take away access to that medicine without consulting your guardians, your doctor or peer-reviewed medical science.

Puberty-aged transgender children who receive hormone suppression or replacement medications should be able to access treatment that vastly improves their quality of life.

You may be asking yourself: Why can’t transgender minors just wait until they are 18 to begin hormone treatment?

The reason is simple: Puberty begins much earlier than that, and when transgender children get hormone treatment, their chance of suicide goes down dramatically. Their mental health improves, and the effects are more beneficial than any other type of treatment. Without that treatment, transgender children are at risk of suicide, depression, drug abuse and more.

I am not suggesting that all kids should change their gender. No one is trying to convince children to identify as transgender and use hormone treatment. Rather, these decisions are made after months or years of careful conversation between the child, parents and doctors. Though rare, this condition is very real, affecting about 1% of kids in West Virginia today.

Transgender people have been around for thousands of years, but you may not have noticed them because they often stayed out of sight to avoid discrimination and personal attack. They are more visible today in part because of modern medicine and therapies that empower transgender people to survive and thrive as their authentic selves.

Not every transgender child needs hormone treatment, but some do. Please allow this small minority of West Virginia kids with an uncommon condition to live — to survive — to thrive!

Tell your senator to vote “no” on HB 2007.

Megan Gandy