By: Blanca Hernandez (He/Him/El)
Gender affirmation for trans youth can start simply with supporting a child’s chosen name and pronouns, allowing for different expressions of what their hair or clothes are supposed to look like, or even letting them join the sports team of the gender they align with. According to The 2022 Trevor Project’s National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, who reported that forty-five percent of LGBTQ+ youth admitted to seriously considering suicide in 2022, these seemingly small gestures can be lifesaving. The same report also demonstrated that when trans youth feel high social support from family and friends, they reported attempting suicide at less than half the rate of those who have little to no support.
As more and more anti-trans bills targeting youth are introduced into Congress, those in support of these bills are quick to voice their concerns regarding children and teens getting dangerous, irreversible surgeries. However, gender-affirming surgeries for trans minors are rare (Metz and Biraben 2023). While it is understandable for people to agree that children should be protected from permanent medical procedures and that they should wait until they are of legal age to undergo any long-term treatments, it is essential for youth to receive medical support as they require it for them to live happy and productive lives. Parents or anyone else opposing gender-affirming care should also understand that medical intervention (such as puberty blockers and hormone treatments) are all backed by major organizations like the American Medical Association (Metz & Biraben, 2023). The most common treatment, which is puberty blockers, is also completely reversible. In the simplest of terms, they allow for a teen to hit the “pause button” on puberty and give them time to work through their gender identity without having to experience feelings of gender dysphoria.
It is frightening that many states have followed Texas and Tennessee, hoping for successful gender-affirming care bans. As a part of the Illinois early childhood workforce, one may say “those bills are affecting children in other states, I don’t have to take any action”, but that is simply not the case. Although Illinois is one of the “safer states” for trans youth, five anti-trans bills have been introduced here, with House Bill 4096 (affecting trans healthcare and those administering it) being introduced as recently as May 17th 2023 .
As a trans man myself, I can understand the pain and fear a lot of these children are facing now. It is a sinking feeling that is difficult to put into words, and only becomes worse when we don’t see or feel the support we need around us. During these times, we must band together and fight these terrifying bills for the sake of all children in the U.S., because as long as one anti-trans bill has passed into law, no trans child is safe.
2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health. The Trevor Project. https://www.thetrevorproject.org/survey-2022/
2023 Anti-Trans Bills | Track Trans Legislation. https://www.tracktranslegislation.com/
Metz, S., & Biraben, A. (2023, April 22). For transgender kids, a frantic rush for treatment amid bans. AP NEWS. https://apnews.com/article/transgender-gender-affirming-care-ban-55773f9fa1e3decd9bc77990ad9af61d
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