*Content warning: This article includes facts on suicide.
Just when we thought the Texas Legislature couldn’t stoop any lower, this year, they’re working to cut off access to necessary, life-saving health care for children.
In this post, we’re talking about gender-affirming care for transgender youth: defining what it actually is, combatting disinformation, and breaking down some of the worst bills. Get the facts here, and join us in fighting for Texas’ transgender community!
Let’s start with the basics. What exactly is gender-affirming care?
Gender-affirming care encompasses a wide range of medical health care, mental health care, and social services that can be provided to people who experience gender dysphoria — distress that results from one’s gender identity not matching one’s body/sex assigned at birth.
Gender-affirming care includes both medical and non-medical interventions like therapy, and social affirmation like using someone’s chosen name and pronouns. For this piece, we’re focusing mainly on medical care.
For young people under 18, gender-affirming care is given by doctors, with parents’ or guardians’ permission, in age-appropriate ways. Examples of gender-affirming medical care that can be given to minors include:
- Puberty blockers: A type of FDA-approved medication that can temporarily pause puberty and is fully reversible.
- Hormone therapy: Much more rarely given to minors than puberty blockers, hormone therapy involves giving someone estrogen or testosterone. This typically isn’t available until a patient turns 16, and again, only with parent or guardian permission.
Gender-affirming care for minors IS:
- Life-saving: Transgender and gender nonbinary young people are at much higher risk of mental health crises, substance use, and self-induced harm than other kids. When they have access to care like hormone therapy and puberty blockers, they report less psychological distress and thoughts of suicide, and other positive short- and long-term effects. Whether or not someone understands the medical necessity of affirming care, surely all Texans can understand the need to save a life.
- Widely accepted, safe, evidence-based, and supported by all major health organizations: Every major U.S. medical and mental health organization, from the American Medical Association to the American Psychiatric Association to the American Academy of Pediatrics, supports and has set best-practice standards for gender-affirming care for transgender young people.
Gender-affirming care for minors IS NOT:
- Surgery, except in extremely rare instances: Even though fear-mongering legislators want you to think doctors are performing surgeries on kids left and right, it just isn’t true. Transgender people cannot have gender-affirming genital surgeries until they’re adults, full stop. In rare instances, 16- and 17-year-olds have received top surgeries (the removal of breast tissue), only with approval from their parents and doctors after taking gender-affirming hormones for some time.
By the way, we’ve been allowing gender-affirming surgeries and hormone therapy for cisgender people — babies, even! — for decades, without scrutiny or demonization. And, adversely, doctors have been performing so-called “normalizing” surgeries on the genitals of intersex babies that are medically unnecessary, irreversible, non-consensual, and often catastrophically harmful.
Make. It. Make. Sense.
Texas bills targeting gender-affirming care this session
Texas lawmakers have proposed a variety of bills this Legislative Session that would limit or ban life-saving gender-affirming care for young people and punish those who provide it. Here are some of the bills making their way to becoming law.
- HB 1686/SB 14: This bill (and its companion bill) would completely ban transgender youth from receiving essential healthcare in Texas.
- SB 250: This bill would outlaw physicians from providing minors with puberty blockers or hormone therapies, ban insurance companies from covering it, and revoke the licenses of professionals who provide this kind of care.
- HB 42 and HB 436: These bills would formally classify gender-affirming care as child abuse. Yep, you read that correctly. Our legislators want to call CPS on parents who love and accept their transgender kids, potentially placing these kids in foster care where they face a much greater risk of actual abuse.
Why is the far-right so obsessed with hurting transgender kids?
Good question. The way we see it, there are two possible types of people here: people who are scared and are trying to control and erase a group of people that they clearly don’t understand, and, even more insidious, people who understand but just don’t care — who are willfully ignoring the truth in favor of hate-peddling for their own political gain. This NYT article dives into some of the reasons the far-right has latched onto attacking transgender rights.
If you’re thinking, “That’s pretty messed up,” we have opportunities for you to get involved.
Transgender Texans deserve to live full, happy lives with access to the care they need. Transgender children, and their families who support them, shouldn’t have to live in fear. This is what we’re fighting for. Get involved!
The legislature moves fast, so keep up by following us on social media. For opportunities to take action, sign up for lege watch alerts and visit our Lege Action Center — your personal hub for updates on the bills we’re watching, upcoming advocacy trainings, volunteer opportunities, and more.