Anti-Trans Bill Endangers Lives for a Vote
Medical systems are being hijacked for political gain, and the health of our children is at stake
Imagine that your child is suffering. They struggle every day, and you fear for their mental and physical health. There are ways to help them — but these methods have just been outlawed. You’ve packed up the car and are prepared to move your entire family, a sacrifice to protect your child and even to save their life. But though you might flee the restrictions of your home state, you’ll be marked as an outlaw. Evading the statute by moving away is a federal crime, punishable by life sentence. You are a refugee on the run.
It sounds like post-apocalyptic fiction. It also sounds frightfully like history; I know, because I’m presently writing a book on the rise of fascists. But this reality is here and now.
On March 9, 2022, the Idaho House passed deeply discriminating legislation by a vote of 55–13: House Bill 675 bans any gender-affirming treatment for trans teens, by which they mean puberty delaying medications, which help teens get to their 18th birthday without greater dysphoria. It bans any use of hormones, too. It criminalizes any physician who tries to aid a trans teen. And most threateningly of all, subsection 45 states that “whoever knowingly removes or causes, permits, or facilitate the removal of a child from the state for the purpose of facilitating any of the treatments above shall be guilty of a felony.” Subsection 48 adds: They “shall be imprisoned in the state prison for a term not more than life.”
Idaho is not the first. It won’t be the last. Florida Senate passed the “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” bill, which blocks teachers from talking about LGBTQ+ issues and undermines existing protections for LGBTQ+ students. In Texas, the governor is requiring “doctors, nurses, and teachers” to report any instance of a young person using puberty blockers or other gender-affirming medical treatments as child abuse. And yet, gender-affirming health care saves lives, helps prevent trans teen suicide, and supports young people into adulthood where they can make their own decisions.
Or can they? The rhetoric of these bills pretend to protect children. But look carefully. They limit the rights of adults. They punish parents, health care practitioners, teachers. This is an assault on our right to health care writ large.
Civil rights lawyer Alison Gash has reported that, overwhelmingly, campaigns that attack pro-LGBTQ+ policies as “harmful to young people” are in fact using it as a political strategy to “galvanize their base.” And the strategy isn’t even a new one. It has been used against homosexual people since the 1970s, as the “save our children” campaign attacking — demonizing, says Gash — LGBTQ+ individuals as pedophiles grooming children as recruits. So what happened? The world moved on, that’s what; young people especially have recognized the rights of lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer, intersex, and asexual human beings, resulting in 2015 legislation overturning marriage bans.
And that is when the new crusade began. Think about it; you never heard about “bathroom bans” before then, did you? But in 2015, conservative party members hoping to solidify a base (and ultimately to reclaim a GOP presidency) started a campaign that looks strikingly like the one in the 1970s — except now it has the benefit of online trolls. As Gash explains, “They misleadingly argued that any measure protecting transgender individuals would place cisgender girls and women — individuals whose gender identity and birth-assigned sex are both female — at risk.” It isn’t true. It never was. It is, as it has always been, a political move for political gains. And by these means, we are seeing legislation that removes access to medical care. Worse, it criminalizes it.
Transgender young people are some of the most marginalized and defenseless in America. And yet, conservative campaign supporters like the American Principles Project (APP) and Restoration PAC have spent millions in anti-trans ads for conservative politicians. Millions. Against the most marginalized group in the United States, many of whom are children. And now that many of these politicians are in place, they have begun to take our very medical system hostage with threats of imprisoning doctors and chasing families across state lines as though they were criminals of the first order.
A survey of 35,000 trans and LGBTQ+ youth found that 42% had considered committing suicide in 2021, while a long-term study of 102 trans youth found that puberty-blockers and supportive care cut suicidal thoughts by 60%. If those numbers don’t seem meaningful to you, consider: two of every five transgender teens considers suicide (and that is a conservative estimate). Supportive care more than halves that number. Now, let’s imagine it’s your child. A child that, with access to care, could be happy and supported, could learn more about themselves, their choices, and could learn about others like them. No longer isolated, repressed, or closeted. No longer voiceless. All of this is possible without doing anything that permanently alters the body (because despite all the anti-trans saber-rattling, gender reassignment surgeries are not performed until the patient is of the age of consent). Who wouldn’t want that for their child?
We live in a country with great technological means, excellent health care services, and incredibly talented doctors, counselors, and psychologists. We have marvelous centers for transgender health, and supportive care for transgender youth. We know it promotes mental health and provides children with better outcomes. Given the increasing suicide rates among trans teens, we also know affirming care saves lives. We legitimately have a solution to the problem of trans teen mental health: It’s right here, right now.
Except in Idaho, possibly. If the bill becomes law, we will have descended into hellish territory, a place where we not only struggle to access health care, but where doing so is punishable by law. And if you think it will stop with trans teen support, you are, I fear, very wrong. We must stand up now against these horrors, and take our health care back from those who wish to use it as a pawn in their political agendas.
Trans rights are human rights. And we all have a right to care.