Advocates for the effects of state laws targeting LGBTQ youth (VIDEO)

Trans children have been put under the microscope by state legislatures, with some proposing laws restricting their identity and health care.

It’s hard to be a child. You navigate a new world, try to understand it, get to know yourself and others, go through puberty and years of awkwardness that sometimes extend into adulthood.

And LGBTQ+ kids can sometimes struggle even more. Many have to balance all of this while worrying about being bullied for who they are and whether their parents will still love them the same if they go out.

It’s important to distinguish sex, which is determined by your biology, from gender, which is based on societal perceptions. Being transgender means that your gender identity differs from your biological sex.

There is a growing awareness of transgender and non-binary identities, but discrimination is still rampant in areas of life as complicated as healthcare or things as simple as the bathroom a person may use. .

This impacts mental health, according to Dr. Jack Drescher, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University and an expert on LGBTQ+ mental health issues.

“There are a lot of places where kids have to hide their identities from those around them, which comes at a cost,” Dr Drescher said. “Sometimes it can take a toll on their mental health in terms of anxiety, sometimes depression. There are statistics that suggest thoughts of suicide are more common, you know, especially among transgender kids.”

A survey released last year by LGBTQ+ suicide prevention effort, The Trevor Project, found that more than half of all transgender and non-binary youth were seriously considering suicide in 2020.

And over the past two years, it is these children who have been put under the microscope by state legislatures across the country. Republicans have introduced a series of laws focused on transgender youth, proposing laws restricting their ability to play sports, preventing them from altering their birth certificates and preventing them from accessing health care consistent with their gender identity. .

Advocates have pushed for these laws in an effort to give parents more say in decisions about their minor children. They came in conjunction with other efforts, such as pushing for parents to have more say in what their children learn in school and banning certain books or discussion topics. Many of these, like critical race theory, relate to issues of race, gender, or social justice.

In Texas, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order last month ordering state child protective services to consider parents who allow their children to be considered potential cases of child abuse. .

But when we talk about gender-affirming care for minors, we’re not usually talking about surgeries.

Gender-affirming care can include everything from taking hormones, to getting counseling or therapy to deal with life’s difficulties, to speech therapy if you want your voice to sound better. aligns with your gender.

In Arkansas, Republican lawmakers passed a bill banning doctors from administering or even referring transgender youth to treatments that would affirm their gender. This bill passed despite the veto of the state’s Republican Governor, Asa Hutchinson, who argued that the bill was an excess of the government.

The law is currently not in effect, as legal battles are still ongoing. The American Civil Liberties Union, or ACLU, is suing Arkansas and Texas for their actions. And as ACLU Deputy Director Rose Saxe told us, their challenges are rooted in the civil rights of the children involved and their parents.

“These bills pose a series of problems, but all targeting trans people for who they are is of course a constitutional problem,” Saxe said. “The government is not allowed to treat people differently because of who they are without sufficient reason and when targeting people based on their sex, gender identity and gender expression. The government does not should not deny people’s fundamental right to access care and interfere with parents’ right to make decisions about the best interests of their children.”

Medically, these treatments are well documented. Gender-affirming care is supported by the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Both condemned laws that block access to gender-affirming care, with the AMA calling the bans a “dangerous intrusion into the practice of medicine” and the American Academy of Pediatrics noting that gender-affirming care gender affirmation can help with mental health and suicidal thoughts. .

Thus, according to these medical groups, this treatment could in some cases be the difference between life and death.

Now lawmakers who push for these laws that restrict access to gender-affirming care argue that children really aren’t capable of making decisions about it.

Arkansas and Tennessee are the two states that have signed bills governing trans health issues, and bills in Alabama and Idaho would make prescribing hormone treatments a crime punishable by 10 years in Alabama or life in prison in Idaho. These bills are currently before the Legislative Assembly.

In Idaho, supporters of the law focus on banning the possibility of surgeries for minors, but have extended their proposed ban to more reversible treatments like puberty blockers and hormone treatments.

Republican Idaho State Rep. Bruce Skaug, sponsor of the Idaho bill, defended the ban before a state House committee, saying he was concerned about the salaries and potential side effects.

“If we don’t allow minors to get tattoos, drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, why would you allow them to have these physical mutilations because of their feelings at the time?” the rep said. Skaug.

As a reminder, doctors generally do not recommend surgeries for transgender youth, but rather encourage the other more reversible treatments that this bill also prohibits.

Nonetheless, these laws have become quite widespread, with 21 states introducing legislation that would limit trans healthcare. Bans on trans youth playing gender-conforming sports have also taken off, with 31 states introducing bills and at least 11 enacting them.

Many of those laws don’t even use the word “transgender,” and that’s consistent with the moral and legal arguments of those crafting those laws, according to Scott McCoy, an attorney with the nonprofit Southern Poverty Law Center.

“I think they’re the reason why these bills often don’t single out transgender people using the transgender-first classification,” McCoy said. “The supporters of these bills don’t even believe transgender is a thing, do they? The other reason is legally, if you refer to a particular category of individuals by name, it’s just more easy to dispute that as such targeting a particular class for disparate treatment.”

In Florida, lawmakers last year passed a ban on trans female athletes from participating in women‘s sports. And this year, they’re moving forward with two bills, one officially named the “Stop WOKE Act” and another dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by opponents, that would limit conversations about gender and sexual identities. for young children and could make it harder for LGBTQ+ youth to protect their identity from their parents if they are not ready to come out.

Opponents fear this could prevent LGBTQ+ students from seeking out teachers as a resource.

“If teachers had stood up for me or could have helped me better understand what I clearly didn’t understand, I wouldn’t have had to hide or lie about who I am,” said Salvatore Vieira, a resident of Florida. “You say these talks should only be between a parent and a child. Not all kids are the same. I didn’t run home to ask my parents what these things were. I had scared and I was ashamed.”

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