Dem rep advocates for lesser penalties for teen criminals, saying 'the brain doesn't fully mature until at least 25 years old,' but backs medical sex changes for same age group

Sheila Jackson Lee claimed "adolescents do engage in behaviors that are risky and sometimes dangerous," but only uses this standard for teen criminals.

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Libby Emmons Brooklyn NY
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Rep. Mike Johnson pointed out a rather shocking change in perspective from Democrat California Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee as he headed up the House Judiciary Subcommittee's hearing on "The Dangers and Due Process Violations of 'Gender-Affirming Care' for Children" on Thursday.

Lee had previously stated that teens are not fully capable of making permanent, life-altering decisions until their brains fully mature at 25-years-old, but when it comes to sex changes, she apparently is entirely on board with kids making these kinds of decisions at incredibly young ages.

"I just want to note," Johnson said by way of introducing Lee, "that on May 13, of 2021, subcommittee member here on judiciary, our colleague Miss Sheila Jackson Lee, who just walked in the room. I'm going to quote you," he said to her, "because you said, and I think it's up on the screen there.

"'In essence,'" Johnson quoted, "'the brain doesn't fully mature until at least 25-years-old. Does that tell us about high school students, middle schoolers and yes, young people who make make rash or irreverent or spontaneous decisions, should that be their life?' Now admittedly, she was saying this in the context of a criminal subcommittee hearing but I think that is a truism. I think she stated an obvious fact that everybody should acknowledge."

Lee, who had just come into the subcommittee chamber to offer her objection, essentially, to the House holding a hearing on the dangers of sex changes for minors, said that those comments on brain maturity were only intended for the realm of crime.

"You're absolutely right," Lee said, "That hearing, if I might quote it specifically, as the Chair of the committee, it was made during a committee hearing entitled, 'The juvenile justice pipeline and the road back to integration,'" she said.

"Scientific-based research has shown that adolescence is a distinct development stage that lasts from the mid-teens years into the mid-20s," Lee said in her remarks in 2021.

"In essence, the brain doesn’t fully mature until at least 25-years old. Does that tell us about high school students, middle schoolers, and yes, young people who may make rash or irreverent or spontaneous decisions? Should that be their life? Should we have a way of addressing these young people?

"It tells us," Lee continued, "that during that time, brains continue to mature and develop throughout childhood and adolescence and well into early adulthood. As such, adolescents do engage in behaviors that are risky and sometimes dangerous. It is our responsibility as guardians of the future to be able to help to steer those individuals that have made such decisions to a brighter future."

That was not Lee's view, however, when it came to trans teens. She turned to two of those who were testifying before the committee on Thursday. Lee spoke directly to Miriam Reynolds, a mother who believes that her child is trans in part because the child, born a girl, did not like "pink or girly things" as a child. Lee also spoke to Shannon Minter, who is the legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

"The idea of Miss Reynolds and Mr. Minter," she said by way of explanation for her previous belief that teens are not mature enough to make permanent decisions and face permanent consequences until the age of 25, "was to save lives, from young people being incarcerated for life. And it was the individual young person making rash actions that would draw themselves into criminal life or criminal acts, should that be the rest of their life?

"So let me not step away from the idea that we want to save lives in many instances. Let me get to the point of this hearing, since that was not relevant to this hearing, and it was on a completely different topic. But let me get to this point. Let me apologize for a hearing that frightens me," Lee said.

Lee then went on to explain a tragic story of a young gay man in Texas who killed himself. She claimed that the trans community is being abused by legislation that prevents minors from accessing medical sex changes. In her view, parents should be able to make the decision to sterilize their children, and to give them medications that disfigure them for life, in the event that a child believes that they were born in the wrong body and wishes to live as the opposite sex.

Lee believes that children and teens who commit criminal acts should not be held accountable for the severe consequences of those crimes due to the fact that the human brain is not fully developed until the age of 25. But she believes that children and teens who believe themselves to be the opposite sex should suffer the consequences of medical sex changes in the event that their parents are cool with it.

It is unclear what perspective Lee would have if she were asked whether or not children and teens should be held accountable for criminal actions in the event that their parents were encouraging, and affirming, of their criminal behavior. 
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