Banning gender-affirming care leads to suffering | The Thing About Hope

It’s OK to not understand trans issues. It’s not OK to legislate against them.

Transgender people are currently under attack. The Human Rights Campaign marks the current total of anti-trans bills in state legislatures across the country at 82. That count only grows if you include all anti-LGBTQ+ proposed legislation.

On Feb. 2, HB1, a bill titled “The Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act ”, was proposed in the Alabama State House of Representatives. If it becomes law, this bill will criminalize providing gender-affirming care to those under 18 years old — care of which is designed to help people transition, and thus become and feel more like themselves. For people of this age group, this often includes things such as hormone therapy to induce physical changes that occur during puberty. The aforementioned bill also holds a requirement for school therapists and teachers to alert the parents of a student who comes out to them as transgender or non-binary.

In Arkansas, there’s more of the same. Just signed into law, Senate Bill 354 bans trans girls and women from playing on sports teams that correlate with their gender. The next, HB1570, just passed through both chambers, would not only bar this care for those under 18 yet again, but will also allow private insurance to refuse to cover any trans individual’s gender-affirming procedures no matter their age.

States such as South Dakota, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana and Tennessee are each debating similar bills as well.

Major medical associations including The American Academy of Pediatrics, The American Counseling Association, and The American Public Health Association have all opposed such policies.

Laws such as these will cause irreversible harm and damage, and there is not a doubt in my mind that we will lose many trans kids to suicide because they cannot access this life-changing, and often life-saving, care. Dr. Michele Hutchison, a pediatric endocrinologist, spoke in front of the Arkansas Senate saying, “Just after this bill passed the house, these kids heard about it. I’ve had multiple kids in our emergency room because of an attempted suicide just in the last week. So I guarantee you if this bill passes children will die, and I will call you every single time that it does.”

Legislation like this affects real people in real time. It hurts, and all too often, it quite literally kills.

Trans children, and trans people, just want to be themselves. That is it, and that is all. But, time and time again they are not allowed to be. Denying them this care does not “protect” them. In fact, it does nothing but deny them their humanity and their chance to be themselves. This is the intervening of a family’s medical decisions that should have nothing to do with the state government.

The parents of transgender youth do not want this. That much is evident by the hundreds of videos you can find online of parents speaking to their elected state officials, pleading with them not to pass these bills.

Listen to Chris Attig when he says, “Trans people are everywhere. You may never know you are hurting until it is too late. Stop persecuting my kid. Stop hating my kid. Stop bullying my kid.”

Or Brandon Boulware’s words, “It was then that it hit me. My daughter was equating being good with being someone else. I was teaching her to deny who she is. As a parent, the one thing we cannot do is silence our children’s spirit. The moment we allowed my daughter to be who she is, to grow her hair, to wear the clothes she wanted to wear, she was a different child. Let them have their childhoods, let them be who they are.”

If the parents don’t want this, and the children and teenagers themselves don’t want this, then who does?

It is the people who do not understand.

And the thing about not understanding is that, despite what you may have heard, it is okay.

It is okay to not be able to grasp something that seems new to you, or hasn’t been a part of your life. But, the moment it becomes not okay is the moment you refuse to try. It becomes not okay the moment you decide that some people just aren’t worth listening to.

That is the moment you fail yourself. That is the moment you let everything prevail over goodness. And I would argue that if you actually talked to more than one transgender child, or adult, you might feel differently.

Because then you are looking into the eyes of a brave human being who only wants to be who they are without facing persecution.

The truth of the matter is stopping a transgender person from transitioning does not make them not trans. It does not change who they are, it makes them miserable and hurt. In the words of Munroe Bergdorf, “You cannot legislate identity out of existence” — and why would you want to?

Why does someone wanting to feel and become more like themselves hurt you?

Why does a child wanting to have fun and play on a school’s sports team concern you?

They are people. Being trans is a part of them, not all of them, in the same way we are all made up of more than one thing. And I believe it is our job, or perhaps now our duty, as human beings on this Earth to try and better understand those different than us with kindness and respect. And I believe that every time we do, our world gets just a bit better.

Linda Chesterfield, an Arkansas State Senator, said it best when she spoke, “This is an unabashed attack on transgender kids because they are viewed as ‘other’. Viewing people as ‘other’ in this country carries a great deal of pain for the folks who bear this stigma.”

I ask you to please- choose love. Commit to spending your time listening. Commit to building a world in which there is no ‘other’, and instead one where we all belong. Commit to standing against laws based in hatred.

Lastly, to trans people everywhere, I am so sorry. I am sorry that your home refuses to understand or protect you. You have done nothing to deserve this. You are loved, you belong, you are perfect, good, and right.

I see you, and I will fight for you my whole life through.

Hope is never foolish. Say it until you believe it is true- for somewhere it so deeply is.