Gender-Affirming Health Care Bans Are Making Life Hell for Trans Youth

Trans kids and their families are "in a state of panic," one doctor in Arkansas told the AP.

As an unprecedented number of baseless anti-transgender bills move forward in state legislatures around the country, trans kids and their loved ones are more terrified than ever.

Since January 1, 2021, Republican lawmakers across the United States have introduced more than 100 bills targeting trans youth (and more than 230 anti-LGBTQ bills overall). The bulk of these legislative efforts take aim at trans kids’ access to gender-affirming health care — which is supported by the country’s leading pediatricians and psychiatrists and has been proven time and time again to be life-saving — or their eligibility to participate in the student athletics.

One such ban on gender-affirming medical treatment is already on the books in Arkansas, a first for any state in the U.S. Even a veto from Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson wasn’t enough to squander the bill. According to a recent report from the Associated Press, its passage has trans youth and their families anxious and terrified.

“My families are in a state of panic, asking what state should they move to, saying their child is threatening to kill themselves,” Dr. Michele Hutchison, an endocrinologist who runs a clinic at Arkansas Children’s Hospital that provides gender-affirming health care, told the AP. “They want to know what they should do next and we don’t have a clear answer for them.”

Hutchison said that since the ban took effect, four trans youth in her program have attempted suicide. Others have asked her about getting medications like puberty blockers “on the black market” if they are unable to access them legally. “They’re going to find a way to get them,” she added, “and it’s going to be dangerous because they won’t be monitored for side effects.”

Ash, a 16-year-old trans man living in North Carolina, described the prospect of an anti-trans health care ban as “a nightmare” come true. Lawmakers in his state have introduced a bill that would allow doctors to turn down LGBTQ patients due to their religious beliefs. “I was deeply, terribly depressed and suicidal before I was on testosterone,” he told The Daily Beast. “I would not be alive today without it.”

Some parents of trans kids in states like Arkansas are reportedly considering moving to a different state in order to access gender-affirming health care. Amanda Dennis, the mother of an 8-year-old trans girl named Brooke, told NBC News that the benefits of staying in Arkansas won’t “outweigh the dangers of raising our children here,” especially as her daughter approaches puberty.

Lawmakers in Alabama are debating a similar ban on gender-affirming health care this week: Senate Bill 10, which was already passed by the state’s senate last month. If signed into law, SB 10 would make it a felony for doctors to offer transition-related medical care to minors. Alabama’s House Bill 391, an anti-trans sports ban, is also awaiting a sign-off from Gov. Kay Ivey.

Visit the ACLU of Alabama’s website to learn more about these bills or take action against them, and check back here for future updates.

Brooklyn-based writer and editor. Probably drinking iced coffee or getting tattooed.
@_sammanzella