POLICY SPOTLIGHT

Get the Facts: Best Practice Medical Care For Trans Youth (updated May 19, 2022)

Prior to 2020, not a single state had considered legislation to ban best-practice medical care for trans youth.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, 22 states considered this type of legislation in 2021 with one state, Arkansas, passing such a bill into law. Unfortunately, this trend has only continued this year. According to new research from The Williams Institute, more than 58,000 transgender youth are currently at risk of losing access to best-practice medical care due to proposed and enacted state bans and policies.

For more on these efforts, read MAP’s 2021 spotlight report, including the graphic below-showing state efforts prior to 2022.

Bans on best-practice medical care represent one of the most extreme and coordinated political attacks on transgender people in recent years. These bills target trans youth by blocking their access to best-practice medical care — care that is backed by years of rigorous research and endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, and other leading health authorities.

▸▸ What’s happening in 2022?

This year, at least 17 states have introduced bans on best-practice medical care for transgender youth.

In February, Texas took executive action to attempt to restrict best practice medical care for transgender youth, though these actions do not change the law in Texas or actually ban this care. The governor ordered the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services to begin investigating families of transgender children for potential child abuse.

These investigations were temporarily halted by a statewide injunction, and last week the Texas Supreme Court ruled that the governor did not have the authority to order such investigations. The Court, however, also struck down the injunction blocking investigations, but legal action against the state continues in order to protect the ability of families to access best practice medical care for their trans kids.

In March, Arizona banned best practice care for minors, though the bill does not go into effect for another year. And just this month, Alabama not only became the third state to ban best practice care for trans youth, but also became the first state to make it a felony— punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000 — for medical professionals to provide best practice care for people under 19.

Luckily, a federal judge last week blocked the part of the Alabama law that criminalizes medication for transgender youth, but other parts of the law remain in place for now — including a provision that requires school staff and teachers to out transgender children to their parents.

Bills that seek to ban or criminalize best-practice medical care for transgender youth would cause real and direct harm to the health and wellbeing of trans youth. Research clearly shows that denying trans youth access to the support and health care they need would only increase the likelihood that trans youth may experience depression, isolation, and risk of self-harm or suicidal thoughts or behavior.

Specifically, transgender youth whose families support their gender identity have a 52% decrease in suicidal thoughts, a 46% decrease in suicide attempts, and significant increases in self-esteem and general health.

▸▸ Advancing acceptance of transgender youth

During this especially difficult legislative session, the stories of transgender youth and their families are reminders of the resiliency of trans people and the importance of love and acceptance. Through family and community acceptance and support, nurturing strong connections to people who care, and establishing a positive sense of identity as a trans person, parents and communities can help foster and strengthen resilience in transgender and gender-diverse young people.

One such family, the Miles Family, shared their family’s journey toward understanding what it means to be transgender, their hopes and dreams for their transgender son, and why they support updating our laws to protect transgender people from discrimination in this video from MAP:

▸▸ Best practice medical care is life-saving care

Transgender youth are part of our communities. Transgender children, like any children, have the best chance to thrive when they are supported and can get the health care they need.

These medical care bans are a political attack on these children. Decisions about health care should be made in accordance with current medical best practices, and those decisions should be made by transgender youth, their parents, and their health care providers — not by politicians.

▸▸ Take Action

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MAP is an independent, nonprofit think tank that provides rigorous research, insight and communications that help speed equality and opportunity for all.

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