Criminalization of trans youth will destroy lives

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton are asking the public to report the parents of transgender minors to authorities for child abuse.

These politicians are pushing for legislation that could send supportive parents to prison for merely providing the necessary and recommended care for their transgender children.

Their action is the harshest example of a larger wave of anti-trans legislation being introduced in states across the country that specifically target children in an effort to outlaw the legitimate gender expression of millions of people.

Paxton wrote in an opinion letter last month that any gender affirming care such as puberty blockers in children should be considered abuse. Paxton supporters argue that children are far too young to consent to such life-altering care. However, he failed to consider that there are years of research to support that this care can help the mental health of those who identify as transgender.

According to the Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, 52% of transgender and nonbinary teens have seriously considered suicide. Additionally, 77% have reported symptoms of general anxiety disorder and 70% have reported symptoms of major depressive disorder.

The study, “Access to gender-affirming hormones during adolescence and mental health outcomes among transgender adults,” published in PLOS Journal, shows that people who receive gender affirming treatment report improved mental health scores. This data is compared to those who desire but do not receive the gender affirming treatment. Transgender people who do receive the treatment necessary to help shape their identity reported back with significantly lower rates of suicide ideation, depression and suicide attempts.

To deny someone the ability to be who they are because of politics is cynical and hateful. And Texas politicians are not alone in their efforts. According to the Freedom for All Americans Legislative Tracker, there are currently 25 bills in 17 states that target trans people in a variety of ways, from outlawing medical care, to limiting participation in youth sports, to requiring students be outed to their teachers and parents.

“Transgender individuals are up to three times more likely than the general population to report or be diagnosed with mental health disorders, with as many as 41.5 percent reporting at least one diagnosis of a mental health or substance use disorder,” said the American Medical Association in a letter to state legislatures.

According to the AMA, these numbers are thought to be increased because of societal pressures and stigma.

A study called “Association Between Gender Confirmation Treatments and Perceived Gender Congruence, Body Image Satisfaction, and Mental Health in a Cohort of Transgender Individuals” from the International Society for Sexual Medicine showed that improved body satisfaction and self-esteem after gender affirming treatment helps with poor mental health. There was a decrease in suicide attempts and diagnosed depression and anxiety directly correlated to dissatisfaction with one’s gender amongst transgender individuals.

Abbot refers to these gender affirming treatments as “forced sterilization,” a heavily fueled phrase insinuating non consensual treatment and abuse. Using phrases that misinterpret what is really going on leads to misinformation and prejudice. In reality the medical guidance for trans youth and gender reassignment surgeries suggests these surgeries only be made available to those who have reached the age of consent, which is 18 for most states.

People need to understand that for transgender people these treatments are necessary and to get medical help to confirm their identity is just a tool on their way to living the lives they were meant to lead. To criminalize parents supportive of their children, who seek professional opinion that is backed by science and decide to follow through with that data proven information, is as hateful as it gets.

But there is hope. The Biden administration has announced plans to fight back against the Texas guidelines with strengthened federal protections for transgender youth. And there are ways for everyone to get involved in the fight. Contact your congressional representatives to ask that they pass the federal Equality Act. Donate your time or money to organizations like the Trevor Project or the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund that campaign against anti-trans legislation and help transgender youth in emotional or legal trouble. We can fight this tide of hateful politics together.

Unsigned editorials represent the opinion of the Campus Times Editorial Board.

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