FARGO, N.D. (KELO) — Dr. Mayson Bedient is a family medicine and gender affirming care specialist with Essentia Health in Fargo, N.D. Until December 2022, he was one of two physicians in Webster, a small South Dakota community of nearly 2,000 a little under an hour east of Aberdeen.

He has since left that community.

“I felt like I needed a change as far as my career and my location,” Bedient said. “[I] felt like Essentia’s mission and the way they put things forward aligned with what I wanted to do.”

Bedient acknowledges that on a state-level, North Dakota is very similar to South Dakota in its approach to transgender rights and access to healthcare, but moving there does have a benefit.

“It probably helps that [Essentia] is based out of Duluth,” said Bedient. “So, for the political aspect of things, that might be a better fit for me down the road, depending on how the legislation goes.”

The legislation Bedient is referring to is a type, seen in many states, which seeks to ban providers from giving gender affirming care to minors. In South Dakota, this is being pushed in HB 1080.

Bedient gave his input as a doctor on this bill.

“As someone who went to school for as long as I have and practiced for as long as I have, and gotten all that experience — it’s almost offensive in a way, that these legislators are coming in and saying that they know better than I do or than my colleagues do,” said Bedient, pointing out that these legislators simply don’t have the same education and experience that he does.

“These are something that should be left to a healthcare provider and a patient,” Bedient said. “That’s the entirety of what we do — you’re not questioning whether I know how to take care of cancer patients; you’re not questioning whether I know how to take care of diabetes patients, and yet this is the one thing you’re questioning whether I know better than you.”

Bedient emphasized the danger of allowing legislators to put themselves between patients and their providers.

“If you start doing that with transgender care, where do you stop,” questioned Bedient. “It shouldn’t be anywhere. Nowhere should the law come between a doctor and a patient.”

Asked if he feels that medical providers are being targeted through bills such as 1080, Bedient said he does.

“And a very small number of healthcare professionals, especially in a state like South Dakota,” he added.

There are few doctors in South Dakota that provide gender affirming care, and also few patients who receive it, according to Bedient.

“It’s not like there’s a huge number of transgender people either [in South Dakota] — It’s really an attack on a small subset of people,” Bedient said.

The small number of transgender patients and medical personnel who treat them in South Dakota leads Bedient to suggest a motive for legislation targeting them. Fear.

“Let’s scare these providers out of doing it,” Bedient speculated. “If the care is not available, then we don’t have to go after the families [of trans kids] if it’s not available.”

Bedient also outlined a major drawback of this effort to scare gender affirming care providers out of the state.

“You’re taking away general practitioners,” Bedient said. “This isn’t all we do — for me it was really a very small percentage of my practice, and most of what I did was general family medicine.”

Bedient says that if those opposed to providing healthcare to transgender kids scare away the practitioners providing that care, they’re also depriving every other member of the surrounding community of other types of care. “You’re preventing people who need other services from getting those other services, just to spite the 2-5% of their practice this makes up,” he said.

This concern is highlighted by Bedient’s own move. “I was one of only two physicians [in Webster],” he said. “There were five providers, but only two physicians, and now that I’ve left, that leaves one for the entire area that we served.”

Bedient himself is a transgender man. He grew up in rural New York, went to medical school in West Virginia and did his residency in Pennsylvania. “All fairly rural areas,” he said describing them. “Fargo’s the biggest city I’ve ever lived in.”

Bedient says that his experience with providing gender affirming care helped him in interpreting his own identity.

“It wasn’t until I came to South Dakota and got involved in some of the transgender care that I had a word for what I was,” Bedient said. “I always knew I was different but didn’t really have the words for it because when you grow up rural and in the 90s like I did, nobody talked about that stuff.”

In moving to Fargo, Bedient is seeking out others who understand him.

“I wanted more community,” Bedient said. “I had no problems [in Wagner] — no one ever said, at least to my face, that they had a problem with me, but you lack that community because there just isn’t– Everybody leaves. LGBT people want community, they want someplace that’s not going to judge them, so they leave the small towns and head to the bigger places.”

Bedient calls his time in rural South Dakota, where he really came to more fully understand his own gender identity, an adventure.

“Getting involved in the care introduced me to the community, which is what kind of gave me permission, so to speak, to explore it for myself and eventually come out and live the life that I want to live.”