Alabama Ban on Trans Youth Health Care Is Part of Attack on Bodily Autonomy

Alabama has become the first U.S. State to make it illegal to provide trans youths with gender-affirming health care. Sunday saw the passage of a law banning the use and abuse of hormones and puberty blocksers. This could be lifesaving for teens and trans children. Doctors and other people found in violation of this law could be sentenced to up to 10 years imprisonment. The Alabama law is just one of many conservative attacks that have been mounting. LGBTQ People in the United States. “This is all happening in the same context that we’re seeing the criminalization of abortion care, that we’re continuing to see the massive suppression of votes across the country,” says ACLU attorney Chase Strangio, deputy director for trans justice with the organization’s LGBTQ & HIV Project. “All of these things are interconnected and creating chaos and fear among individuals, families and communities.”

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

Alabama became the first state to make it illegal to provide transgender youth with medical care. This is a significant step in the ongoing attacks against transgender people in America. Sunday saw the passage of a law banning the use and abuse of hormones and puberty blocksers. This could be lifesaving for trans youth and their parents. Alabama could sentence doctors and others found in violation of this law to up to 10 years imprisonment.

The measure is taking effect even as it’s being challenged by the Human Rights Campaign and other LGBTQ+ rights group. The Justice Department also joined the lawsuit, claiming that the Alabama law is a violation of constitutional rights. A federal judge blocked Arkansas’s attempt at a similar measure.

This comes after Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida introduced a bill Friday that would prohibit employers from deducting expenses related to their workers’ travel costs when seeking gender-affirming care for their children out of state, as well as for those seeking an abortion.

LGBTQ+ rights advocates claim these laws are discriminatory, violent, and severely harm the mental health for trans youth who already face a high level of depression and suicide risk. A new survey The Trevor Project discovered that 45% LGBTQ+ youth in the U.S. had seriously considered suicide in the past 12 months. Trans youth and LGBTQ+ young people of color are at greatest risk for suicide. The majority of youth surveyed indicated that they have expressed a desire for mental health care in the past year, but were unable or unwilling to pay for it.

For more, we’re joined here in New York by Chase Strangio, deputy director for trans justice with the ACLU LGBTQ & HIV Project.

Chase, we’re glad you’re back! Democracy Now! Talk about the significance and impact of yesterday’s first law in the country, which was enacted in Alabama, that targets trans youth.

CHASE STRANGIO: Amy, thanks for your kind words and a good morning.

This is a terrible and frightening time on so many levels. And with Alabama’s law, this is a law that’s been introduced in Alabama since 2020. We’ve been able to block it in 2020 and 2021, and they continued to move it forward. Unfortunately, it was passed on the final day of the legislative session. The governor signed it immediately. It had an emergency effective date, which meant there was only 30 days from the time it was signed by Governor Ivey in Alabama to when it went into effect, creating an absolute terrifying sea change in the reality on the ground for trans people, their families and their doctors in Alabama — and not just Alabama but across the Southeast. The University of Alabama has a gender center that serves trans teens and their families. It is located in Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Mississippi. All of this care is now a felony. This means that families are having to move. They are trying find out when and how they can get lifesaving medical care for their adolescent daughters.

And I think it’s important to note that this is all happening in the same context that we’re seeing the criminalization of abortion care, that we’re continuing to see the massive suppression of votes across the country. And all of these things are interconnected and creating chaos and fear among individuals, families and communities across 50% of the country at least, because we are looking at a situation where, come June, we’re going to have an absolute sea change in the realities of our federal constitutional rights, which is going to lead to actions by the states that are going to continue this type of escalation that we’re seeing in Alabama and elsewhere.

AMY GOODMAN: Chase, let’s talk more about the content of this Alabama law and other similar laws, such as the executive directive that was issued by the Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott, which orders the Department of Family and Protective Services in that state to conduct child abuse investigations into parents who give gender-affirming care to their trans children. The Texas directive has been put on hold.

A major new feature report published last week by the Yale Law School, the Yale School of Medicine and the University of Texas Southwestern notes, quote, “Texas and Alabama officials have falsely claimed that doctors are routinely sterilizing children and teenagers with surgical procedures.” It also says both states, quote, “consistently ignore the mainstream scientific evidence that documents the substantial benefits of gender-affirming care … greatly exaggerate the risks of gender-affirming drug therapy … [and] rely on poor-quality evidence,” unquote.

One of the co-authors of the report, Meredithe McNamara of the Yale School of Medicine and Child Study Center, said, quote, “We need to call for fact-based checks on legal opinions and legislation. Scientists must have a place at the table. Fake science must be punished. Trans and nonbinary youth are facing the fight of their lives to simply exist and we can’t let them stand alone. This is a matter of life and death,” she said.

Chase, what’s your response? Also, talk about the significance and importance of the Yale Medical School Report.

CHASE STRANGIO: Yes, absolutely. It is crucial that we have accountability and that we fact-check. It is true that these laws codify misinformation and outright lies regarding this care. Gender-affirming care is not something that young people are being forced to undergo. They are being forcibly sterilized in many situations when it comes to nonconsensual surgery on intersex babies that are allowed by these laws. But we have to be clear about what’s happening. And it’s not just Republican lawmakers that are codifying this misinformation. Because we have spent the past five years having a debate (a so-called debate) over the legitimacy trans life, which has allowed these types laws to flourish, the media and the public discourse are all complicit in this.

The truth is that this care works. There are 21 medical groups that have weighed in on Texas and Alabama courts arguing against these laws. This is safe medical care we have used for many decades. This is medical care that we know can save lives. This care is only for adolescents. Although they refer to children, this is only treatment for people who have reached puberty. It is already extremely difficult to access. There are long wait lists. There are long waitlists. Many families find it prohibitive to pay for this care. There are conservative protocols that govern the provision and regulation of this care. These protocols are strictly regulated. We’re talking about a situation where parents are consenting, adolescents are consenting, and the doctors are recommending this treatment. It is a well-studied, well-proven treatment with documented benefits for young people.

But instead of recognizing that, we’re in a situation with the escalated criminalization of this care. Texas’ governor has directed the Department of Protective Service (DPS) to investigate families. Thankfully, this is now on hold. Alabama is also attempting to criminalize this type of care, in the context that parents and doctors can provide care up to the age 19. And as we’re talking about the ages here, I think it’s really important to note that Republican legislatures across the country continue to creep the age later and later. We hear the talk of children. However, Missouri has proposed legislation that would prevent this care from being provided up to age 25. The reality is that it’s not about protecting children. It’s not about protecting anyone. It’s about surveilling and criminalizing trans bodies and making this medical care increasingly out of reach, because we’re continuing to see the propagation of this misinformation about what this care actually is.

AMY GOODMAN: Chase, I have a question for you about the Florida middle-school teacher who claimed she was fired in March after discussing sexuality with students. Casey Scott is an art teacher at Trafalgar Middle School. She says that her students started asking questions about what her sexual orientation was. She shared with them she’s pansexual. Her students were inspired to create art that reflected their sexual orientations and gender identities. Scott hung the artwork in Scott’s classroom. She says that Lee County School District officials instructed her to remove the artwork. She was then sent home and fired over-the-phone. In a statement, she said that the Lee County School District officials told her to remove the artwork. NBC News, the Lee County School District said Scott was fired because she, quote, “did not follow the state-mandated curriculum.” See, Florida recently enacted the new law known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which prohibits discussion on sexual orientation and gender identity in the classroom of younger kids up to third grade, the measure expected to go into effect July 1st. Learn more.

CHASE STRANGIO: Yeah, I mean, we’re in a situation now where across the country we have these so-called restrictions on any discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity. Everybody has a different sexual orientation. Everyone has a different gender identity. They don’t prohibit people talking about boys or girls. They’re not prohibiting heterosexual teachers from talking about their spouses. These laws are very explicit and targeted at the LGBT community. And we’re starting to see the fallout from that. It means that people can’t talk about their families in the classroom. It means that kids can’t share their own experience of existence or the existence of their families. And it’s not just in Florida. Florida’s bill got a lot of press attention, but Oklahoma passed a similar bill. Alabama passed a bill along with the felony-health ban on the last day of session. We’re going to see these types of escalations happening across the country.

The reality is that these pieces of legislation have the purpose of expanding the state’s power to limit what we can and can’t talk about, to restrict who we can be, and to limit the possibilities for our lives. And we’re starting to see it with the control over teachers over this so-called curricular regulation. This is a restriction on people’s ability to share their history. And the more we constrain the ability to tell the truth about the histories that we’ve all known to be true when we’re in communities whose histories have been systematically erased is that it leaves more space for the government to escalate the type of criminalization that we’re seeing. This kind of constraint on discussion of, for example, LGBTQ people is not new, it’s reemergent. Alabama, until very recently, had a law that forced — officially had forced teachers to include in the curriculum of the state to express that homosexuality was against the moral fiber of the people of Alabama. This country has a long history of criminalizing cross-dressing laws.

And we’re seeing all of these things reemerge at the same time that the government is enforcing these imperatives to erase those histories, so that we can act like these are new things, that they are not part of the centuries-long histories that are designed to expand the power of the state and to constrain people’s survival opportunities. These are not isolated incidents. They are part of a coordinated attack. And we should be very concerned, because right now it’s 2022. We are currently facing the midterms. We’re facing the 2024 presidential election. These are all very strategic efforts to mobilize votes, making it increasingly difficult for people to put a halt to government power.