Trans health care is being attacked on multiple fronts in the U.S.: direct anti-trans legislation to cuts to vital resource and the targeting gender-affirming providers of care.
Although dozens have already proposed bills that would attack trans health care for 2022, three U.S. states already have passed laws restricting trans-affirming health care for minorsAlabama, Arizona, Arkansas. Alabama is the only state where it is a crime to provide specific care to minors. Tennessee bans hormone replacement therapy. Pre-pubertal children, even if such treatment is not practiced in any country. Each of these laws is subject to intense legal scrutiny. Arkansas’s law has been blocked by a federal judge from taking effect, and Arizona’s law doesn’t come into effect until 2023. According to The Williams Institute, if all of the bills that were filed against transaffirming care for youth are passed in 2022 nearly 60,000 of the country’s 150,000 high school-aged trans youth would lose accessThey will receive the care they require.
Although Florida doesn’t currently prohibit trans-affirming care, trans Floridians may not access Medicaid fundsThey will pay for their healthcare. Medicaid is a federal-state partnership that covers the healthcare costs of low-income individuals. disabled people. Transgender Floridians have a disproportionately low level of income due to discrimination in employment and housing. This makes the ban on coverage for low income Floridians particularly harmful.
The Republican governor and attorney general of Texas have been busy making it difficult and dangerous for trans families to live in Texas. In February 2022 Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued an opinion that was not binding and held that certain forms of trans-affirming child care are child abuse. Greg Abbott followed the statement with a chilling announcement that the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services would be investigating the families of trans childrento determine if they meet these new life-threatening requirements. Three families sued Texas with the assistance of Lambda Legal. A Texas judge agreed with the parents’ assertion that the law could cause irreparable harm to their children and ordered an injunction of the directiveYou can suspend investigations while the case progresses.
However, in the brief months during which the Texas governor’s directive was permitted to stand, children, parents and families were subjected to invasive and humiliating investigations and interrogations. By May, at least nine families were under active investigationAccording to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services Texas Tribune.
The injunction does not mean that interrogations will cease. A mother revealed that her 13 year-old son was being interrogated as part of a new lawsuit against the state. removed from his classroom in late August and interrogated by department officialsHis responses were recorded. The eighth grader had been distressed by his state’s attacks on trans-affirming care at the beginning of the year but had calmed down for the start of the new school year, according to his mother, who is identified using the pseudonym Carol Koe in her signed declaration. The interrogation began. The Interrogation. Washington Post reported: “He had a ‘meltdown’ after the meeting and asked his mother to pick him up, his mom said. He’s missed more classes and has frequent anxiety attacks, Carol Koe wrote. School for him is no longer the safe space it used to be, she claims.”
The Koes’ story is just one of many in this larger landscape of attacks on trans-affirming care and thus trans lives themselves. Like Koe’s eighth-grade son, many other children and teens across the United States are suffering acute mental health impacts and diminished capacity to feel safe and well at school due to these laws and bills. Some youth are denied affirming health care, while those who do have access to care are facing increased persecution which has a severe impact on their mental health.
Other than legislative measures, there are increasing attacks on providers of gender affirming care. Twitter account LibsofTikTok focused the ire of the anti-trans internet toward a number of children’s hospitalsOffering gender-affirming services, such as support for parents of trans children and guidance for schools and families supporting youth through social change. Under the guise of concern for the children receiving this care, LibsofTikTok (the online face of former real estate agent Chaya Raichik) posted dozens of tweets to its million-plus followers, spreading dangerous lies about “pedophiles” and “groomers.” Raichik’s influence was thrown into clear view when Boston Children’s Hospital in Massachusetts began receiving bomb threats and death threatsTrans-affirming healthcare. And Raichik’s disregard for children’s actual health became all the more apparent when she refused to end her campaigns, even as the Boston Children’s Hospital had to briefly close its doors to visitors due to bomb threats.
The impacts of campaigns like Raichik’s cannot be understated. Boston Children’s Hospital, like every children’s hospital, focuses on providing specialized care for children with health needs that are serious, rare and difficult to treat. These anti-trans activists have made it clear that they are happy to sacrifice the health of thousands upon thousands of children with severe illnesses and even terminal illnesses in order to provide better care for trans children.
Trans-affirming care for youth in America is not easy to access. In fact, the majority of trans youth never have access to it. In fact, research shows that there is a huge disconnect between trans youth and their providersMany trans youth are not getting the care they require because of restrictions, wait lists, and insurance refusals. Youth and their families are finding it increasingly difficult to access the lifesaving support that they need, as each attack on healthcare makes it more difficult.
Trans youth often find that this lack of healthcare is often accompanied with a lack other essential resources. The Trevor Project, a national LGBT suicide prevention group, says that there are many other resources available to trans youth. over one-third of transgender youth report having experienced homelessness or housing instability. Transgender youth comprise a precarious population of young people who rely on one another for resilience and survival, who live on the street and crash on one another’s couches, who don’t have access to routine medical and dental care, much less trans-affirming care, and who face violence and discrimination at many turns in their lives.
This will only be exacerbated by the attack on trans health services in America. The disinformation campaigns seem to be at least partially working. Public opinion on trans health care is slippingWith 46 percent of Americans agreeing that it should, IllegalIt is important for health care professionals in order to provide trans-affirming treatment to minors. A year ago, a PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll found that only 28 percent of Americans supported laws that “prohibited gender transition related medical care for minors.”
Despite overwhelming medical consensus that transaffirming healthcare is lifesaving and evidence-based, there is still opposition to it. American Medical Association, American Psychological Association and American Academy of Pediatrics strongly advocate trans-affirming care for young people. Many organizations that are not well-funded in the trans community spend their limited resources supporting trans people on the ground, fighting against negative laws and policies, rather than advocating for increased access to health care.
We have a crisis here in the United States that is endangering trans children’s lives. These persistent attacks on trans health care won’t stop with attacks against youth. Gov. DeSantis’s revocation of Medicaid coverage for trans adults makes that very clear. Until we have strong leadership to support trans-affirming healthcare for all, more states will pass laws that make it impossible for families accessing care for their children. The anti-trans lobby will also move to ban trans-affirming services for adults.