The Happy Trail

What’s next for trans healthcare?

By Ainsley Feeney

On February 13, South Dakota became the sixth state to restrict access to gender-affirming care for transgender youth, joining Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Tennessee, and Utah. According to the ACLU, 96 other bills in the United States seek to do the same. Now more than ever, trans youth are losing access to possibly life-saving treatment. But what is gender-affirming care, and why is it so important?

Gender-affirming care is an umbrella term referring to medical procedures that allow the bodies of trans and nonbinary people to more closely resemble their gender identities. These procedures include hormone replacement therapy (HRT), masculinizing chest surgery, facial feminization, and administering puberty blockers for minors. Through gender-affirming care, transgender people can feel at home in their bodies by reducing gender dysphoria.

However, these new bills aim to reduce access to gender-affirming procedures, specifically for minors. Some lawmakers claim that the procedures are “irreversible” and “life-altering,” and thus too intense for young people to undergo. Some bills even look to charge parents who provide their children with gender-affirming care for child abuse.

Lawmakers looking to ban gender-affirming care underestimate the dire, even deadly, consequences. Of all transgender people in the United States, over 300,000 of them are between the ages of 13 and 18, according to UCLA Law. Furthermore, without gender-affirming care, transgender youth are more likely to experience depression and anxiety.The Trevor Project reports that over half of transgender youth have considered suicide; these thoughts are often exacerbated by gender dysphoria. Research has also shown that very few trans youth regret their decision to receive gender-affirming procedures. For instance, in a study of 68 participants who received masculinizing chest surgery, only one expressed regret. The research is clear: not only are gender-affirming procedures safe, but the alternative could put young lives at risk.