State lawmakers across the country have introduced a number of anti-LGBTQ bills since November 2019, and much of this legislation has been focused on transgender youth. In the current legislative session, over a dozen states have introduced bills that would impact transgender minors, many of which would prohibit minors from receiving transition-related health care such as puberty blockers. Others aim to ban trans youth from participating on sex-segregated sports teams that align with their gender identity.
The decision to allow transgender adolescents to go on puberty blockers is not one that parents and doctors take lightly. Blockers put puberty on hold so that trans adolescents can become more mentally mature before deciding the course of their permanent treatment. Without them, they will experience physical changes that are difficult if not impossible to reverse.
Some conservative politicians want to take this decision out of the hands of doctors and parents. Eight state legislatures – including Missouri, Florida, Illinois, Oklahoma, Colorado, South Carolina, Kentucky, and South Dakota – have introduced bills this year that would criminally punish doctors who follow best practices for treating adolescents with gender dysphoria. In South Dakota, for example, doctors who prescribe puberty blockers or cross-sex hormones could face a $2,000 fine and up to a year in prison.
Lawmakers in Texas, Utah, and Georgia have promised to introduce similar bills, and a proposal introduced last year in New Hampshire would classify gender-affirming care for minors as child abuse. Should any of the bills become law, they would effectively cut off many adolescents from medically necessary treatment.
In fact, the effects of supporting a trans child can be lifesaving. There are approximately 150,000 transgender youth between the ages of 13 and 17 in the United States, according to the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law. A 2018 study found that the risk of developing a mental health condition was three to 13 times higher for transgender and gender-diverse youth than for those whose sense of personal identity and gender corresponds with their birth sex. Recent analysis from a group of researchers who specialize in studying trans youth found that access to puberty blockers significantly lowers lifetime suicidality in trans people.
The case that spurred the introduction of legislation seeking to ban the medical transitioning of minors involved a 7-year-old trans girl from Dallas, Texas. In a bitter custody battle between her parents, who disagree over her gender identity, a Texas judge overruled a jury decision to award full custody of the girl to her mother in late September. This gave equal say in the girl’s future medical decisions to her father, who insists on dressing the child as a boy.
Gender identity is still one of the most divisive identity issues – including race, ethnicity, sex, religion, disability status or even sexual orientation – for American voters. With so many bills in process, LGBTQ advocates are concerned about a domino effect: if one passages it could trigger passage of the others. The political fight has caused apprehension among young trans people across the country who depend on medication to keep their gender dysphoria at bay.
Bills banning trans care for kids are the new bathroom access bills, as conservatives continue to try to control the private lives of trans people and make it harder for trans kids to live in accordance with their gender identity. If you need advice or counsel about your legal rights or those of your children, we are here to help. Contact us at 973-509-8500 x213 or email us at LFarber@LFarberLaw.com.
The contents of this writing are intended for general information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion in any specific facts or circumstances.