(New York, NY - April 19, 2021) GLAAD is responding to reports of an increase in suicide attempts among transgender youth in Arkansas, which on April 6 became the first U.S. state to outlaw gender-affirming healthcare for trans minors. In an April 17 interview with the Associated Press, endocrinologist Dr. Michele Hutchison said that since the ban took effect, four trans youth in her clinic program at Arkansas Children's Hospital have attempted to take their own lives.
GLAAD is concerned for the safety and wellbeing all of the trans and nonbinary youth in Arkansas, as well as in the other roughly 30 states that are considering passing either bans on gender-affirming care for trans youth or bans on sports participation for trans youth. The impact of these discriminatory laws cannot be overstated, and the example cited by Hutchison should be a warning to lawmakers that their votes have the potential to carry a death sentence.
QUOTE FROM SARAH KATE ELLIS, GLAAD PRESIDENT AND CEO:
"Targeting children and teens is plain wrong, but taking away the necessary healthcare of especially vulnerable trans and nonbinary youth can be deadly. The cruel anti-trans healthcare bans we're seeing have no basis in science, are not in line with what doctors and medical associations recommend, and take critical decision-making power away from both youth and their parents. Arkansas lawmakers should immediately overturn this heartless ban on affirming healthcare for trans youth, and state lawmakers everywhere should take note of the urgent need to stop these laws from taking effect."
On April 6, Joseph M. Porter, Board President & CEO of Northwest Arkansas Equality told GLAAD:
"To put it plainly, it's disgusting. The SAFE Act is nothing but a political theater showing that 71 of Arkansas' legislators will bow down to conservative interest groups. These cowards have signaled they have no issue with teen suicide, self-harm, or parents and medical providers' authority to make the correct, and truly safest, decisions to treat transgender youth. It's a government overreach, and considering this ceases existing and current medical care for trans youth, this will likely end up in court, wasting more taxpayer dollars."
On April 6, Joanna Brandt, Mother of a Trans Child told GLAAD:
"Trans girls are girls and trans boys are boys. Denying them access to gender affirming healthcare is denying them the right to be themselves. Dylan will be devastated if he is forced to stop his hormone treatment. I will be terrified not just for my son but all trans youth.
By passing this bill they are telling me and other parents that they don't trust us to make the right decisions for our children. They are telling me that they, who don't know me and who have never met my son, somehow know better than we do what he needs. We all just want to be comfortable in the skin we are in and love ourselves, cisgender or transgender. Forcing these kids to live in a body that looks and feels foreign to them is just cruel."
The evidence against trans healthcare bans is well-documented:
Transgender adolescents in the United States suffer from one or more mental health conditions including anxiety, depression, and suicidality, which is believed to be a combination of gender dysphoria and minority stress.
Studies have shown that puberty blockers (which are prescribed for adolescents and teens) have the following benefits for trans youth with gender dysphoria:
Reduction of depression and anxiety
Improved social interactions and integration with other kids
Eliminate the need for future surgeries
Reduce thoughts or actions related to self-harm
According to the Trevor Project, pubertal suppression (blockers) have a dramatic impact on mental health. In one study, 44% of youth experienced clinically significant behavioral problems before treatment, but that number dropped by half (to 22%) after two years of care. And 30% experienced clinically significant emotional problems prior to pubertal suppression, compared to 11% after two years of care.
A study published in Pediatrics in 2020 found that suicidal ideation is significantly lower in trans adults who had access to puberty blockers as adolescents.
The mental health of trans youth is also highly impacted by environments in which they feel accepted. One study found that trans youth with families that are less accepting of their gender identity attempt suicide at rates of 57%, while that rate drops to 31% for youth with affirming families.
Major medical associations have repeatedly opposed state bans on healthcare for trans youth:
On March 16, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a statement condemning "dangerous" state legislation that has "the sole purpose of threatening the health and well-being of transgender youth," pledging to fight each state in court. AAP policy supports appropriate gender-affirming healthcare for trans youth.
On April 2, the American Psychiatric Association released a joint statement of opposition to "bills that would restrict delivery of gender-affirming care for gender-diverse patients, specifically for children and adolescents." The statement was co-signed by American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Family Physicians, American College of Physicians, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American Osteopathic Association.
On April 14, the Endocrine Society (which sets standards for endocrinologists and hormonal health treatment) condemned state efforts to "prevent transgender and gender diverse adolescents from accessing gender-affirming medical care." The national association offered a toolkit that its medical professional members can use to promote advocacy and oppose harmful anti-trans state laws.
Read the statements from 12 major medical organizations here.
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