New Bill in Arkansas Bans Health Care for Transgender Children
In a vote of 28 to 7, Arkansas lawmakers passed a new bill on Monday that would prevent transgender minors from receiving gender-affirming medical care.
The legislation is just one of many anti-transgender bills being introduced across the country that either aim to restrict necessary health care or blocks kids from playing sports on teams that don't match the gender they were assigned at birth.
It's no wonder Chase Strangio, deputy director for transgender justice at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) LGBT & HIV Project, is calling the Arkansas bill "the single most extreme anti-trans law to ever pass through a state legislature"—if passed into law, it would prohibit doctors from treating trans kids with puberty blockers, hormone therapies, and transition-related surgeries.
Why It's So Problematic
In 2018, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a new policy statement to support transgender and gender diverse (TGD) youth and their families. They're now coming out in opposition of the Arkansas bill and others like it.
"With alarm and dismay, pediatricians have watched bills advance through state legislatures across the country with the sole purpose of threatening the health and well-being of transgender youth," Lee Savio Beers, M.D., FAAP, president of the AAP, said in a release. "The American Academy of Pediatrics has long been on the record in support of affirmative care for transgender children through our clinical policy. Today, we are going on the record to oppose public policies that would allow for the opposite."
The AAP recommends a gender-affirmative care model (GACM), where "youth who identify as transgender have access to comprehensive, gender-affirming, and developmentally appropriate health care that is provided in a safe and inclusive clinical space." On top of that, the AAP cites the mental health benefits—research shows that LGBTQ youth have an increased risk of anxiety, depression, substance abuse, self-harm, and suicide—involved with allowing trans kids to play on sports teams.
"We are in the middle of a pandemic that has led to staggering rises in mental health concerns among children and teens," said Dr. Beers. "Transgender children had statistically higher rates of depression and suicidal ideation before the pandemic: around half of transgender youth consider suicide, and a third attempt it."
"The legislation would allow policymakers rather than pediatricians to determine the best course of care for our patients, and in some medically underserved states, it could mean losing an already limited number of pediatric practitioners who care for transgender youth," said Dr. Beers. "Forcing transgender children to play on teams according to their sex assigned at birth, rather than the gender they live in, also puts their physical and mental health at risk."
What Happens Now
Now that the bill has passed, it's headed to the desk of Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, a Republican who recently supported a law that prevents transgender girls from playing on the sports team that matches their gender identity.
Unless he vetoes this bill, Arkansas will become the first state to ban gender-affirming care for trans youth.
How You Can Help Support Trans Youth
Protest the Arkansas bill from becoming law
There's still time: Demand Gov. Hutchinson veto the anti-trans bill by calling 501-682-2345 or emailing email@example.com.
Fight against other anti-trans bills
According to the ACLU, 28 states have proposed anti-trans bills. You can be an advocate to the LGBTQ community by opposing—and fighting back against—discriminatory legislation.
Both the ACLU and the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) have great resources for taking action. The NCTE's State Action Center lists out the states where urgent action is needed, but you can always reach out to your local representatives to demand they support transgender equality. You can use these sample scripts if you're not sure what to say.
Celebrate trans and nonbinary people
It's time we empower, support, and celebrate the LGBTQ community, including transgender and nonbinary people. As parents, it's equally important to teach your kids to do the same. Here are some ways to do that:
The Bottom Line
"Politics has no place here," said Dr. Beers. "Transgender children, like all children, just want to belong. We will fight state by state, in the courts, and on the national stage to make sure they know they do."