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Guest Opinion: Alabama’s transgender youth need protection, but only from transphobic laws

This is a guest opinion column

I came to medical school to learn how to care for patients where I grew up. Due to bills like the Alabama Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act 6 (HB 150 and SB 5), I would risk up to 10 years in prison just for giving my patients the care they deserve—care they would definitely receive if they lived where I was trained.

People who have followed the state of Alabama’s legislation regarding transgender people might think this bill sounds familiar — and they would be right. In fact, this the bill was introduced in 2021 and previously unsuccessful. Despite this previous attempt, he was reclassified and approved by the Senate Health Committee in February.

I had the opportunity to spend time at a clinic for transgender teenagers in medical school. In our clinic, I have seen children thrive with the support of their parents, many of whom travel many miles to seek gender-affirming therapy.

What is gender-affirming medical care? For children who need more time to explore their gender before starting puberty, a puberty blocker is the first step, to simply delay puberty and allow time to gain clarity with the support of their families and their doctors. These drugs are reversible, meaning that individuals can either break away from it and pursue puberty that matches their sex assigned at birth, or begin hormone therapy and gender-affirming puberty that better matches their gender identity. Other young people may choose to start hormones after puberty, while older teens may consider surgery. Some may not wish to use drugs or surgery at all.

Almost all young people who question their gender and begin hormone therapy will continue to identify as transgender into adulthood, and therapy is approached in an age-appropriate and stepwise manner with guidance from physicians and mental health professionals. This stands in direct contrast to the Bill’s argument that a “substantial majority” of transgender children will eventually identify with the sex they were assigned at birth after puberty, and ignores the significantly detrimental effects on the sanity an unaffirmed puberty can have on transgender children. .

the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend gender-affirming care for transgender youth. Although this bill asserts that there is no evidence that gender-affirming therapies are safe in the long term and provide no long-term benefit, a review of recent research shows the exact opposite. . A analysis published this year a study of 27,715 transgender people found that those who received gender-affirming hormones during their teenage years had significantly lower risks of suicidal thoughts and mental distress than those who wanted it but did not receive it .

HB 150/SB 5 introduces politics into a conversation that should take place between health care providers and families. Care for transgender and non-binary children is nuanced; it involves the expertise of multiple health professionals, but more importantly, the lived experience and priorities of transgender youth and their families.

Decisions about gender-affirming therapy are deeply personal and too complex to be regulated by black-and-white laws. This bill would criminalize health care providers with prison terms for simply doing their job: providing evidence-based care, personalized to the needs of children and their families. It applies dangerously ill-informed opinions to reality the lives of trans children in Alabama.

The legislation says gender-affirming therapies for young people are a “public health risk”. On the contrary, this bill represents a much greater risk to public health. Trans kids also have higher rates self-harm and suicide than their peers, and experts suggest this is due to unfavorable external environments. This bill would force school administrators to release a transgender student without their consent, only worsening students’ feelings of being unsafe and unsupported.

Alabama’s transgender youth need protection, but only from transphobic laws and the people who enact them.

Mugdha Mokashi (@mugdhatweets) is from Alabama and a fourth-year medical student at Harvard Medical School.