It seems like something out of a bad science fiction novel. Parents of teenagers who simply want to be themselves and express themselves how they desire are now running the risk of being considered criminals, with the power of the state levied against them. Adolescents who are acknowledging their true selves are being actively, almost systemically, prevented from accessing medical treatments that have been proven to save lives.
This is happening in Texas today.
In February, Texas elected officials, including Governor Greg Abbott, began targeting gender-affirming care for transgender youth. Texas Attorney General stated that certain types of medical care for transgender youth constitute “child abuse,” and Abbott directed state agencies to investigate allegations of abuse – with doctors, teachers and parents all potentially facing consequences for providing this support and treatment for the children in question.
There is a defined problem with this: it completely removes the agency, identity and freedom of expression for transgender youth themselves. In an age where our society hyperfocuses on every facet of an individual’s identity, it is especially empowering to hear stories from transgender individuals, who often must make significant sacrifices to pursue their true selves, facing discrimination and challenges along the way. I am proud that Connecticut celebrates the LGBTQ+ community and treats them with respect; I am disheartened and angered to see other states attack the trans community, often using the same otherizing language and cruel interpretations of law that have been levied against the LGBTQ+ community for decades.
We have come far, but when such brazen and cruel attacks on ordinary people continue, we must continue fighting for the trans community and trans youth. Above all else, we must stand against these regressive actions in Texas and other states – 21 introduced bills to criminalize gender-affirmation care in 2021 – because medical care for transgender youth is not “child abuse.” Far from it, in fact. There is an overwhelming consensus in the medical community that access to medical care for transgender youth protects them, significantly reducing mental health issues.
A study of patients at the Seattle Children’s Gender Clinic found that youth who received access to puberty blockers, hormone treatment, or both experienced a 60% drop in depression risk and a 73% drop in suicidal thoughts compared to children who did not access aid. Similar results were seen in a large-scale study conducted by The Trevor Project, which surveyed more than 9,000 youth with an average age of 17.5; receiving gender-affirming hormone therapy was associated with nearly 40% lower odds of depression and suicide attempts. The American Academy of Pediatrics found access to treatment reduced risk of depression and suicidal thoughts among transgender youth by 60% and 73%, respectively.
This proves that gender affirming care is not “child abuse” as argued by critics of health access for trans youth it is a life-saving, life-affirming measure that protects and saves the lives of children. We need to support these youths and the trans community, and those working to support them. Doctors, teachers and parents who celebrate, support and aid trans youth should be lauded for their efforts, not made into criminals for the action of helping someone live authentically.
When our society has come so far in accepting, understanding and commending the LGBTQ+ community, we must stand against those wishing to do harm to them. We cannot allow our country and our society to move backwards and allow further discrimination, even demonization, of trans youth and their supporters to become accepted. The advances fought for, for decades, by so many are more fragile than we sometimes like to believe. If we do not fight for the marginalized, we tacitly accept their marginalization, and I refuse to let that happen.
Sen. Norm Needleman, D-Essex, represents Connecticut’s 33rd District. He is also First Selectman of the Town of Essex.