A record-breaking number of bills have been introduced in state legislatures that would prohibit transgender children from getting gender-affirming healthcare or playing sports on teams consistent with their gender identity

By Andrea Wurzburger
Updated April 13, 2021 12:47 PM
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On March 29, Arkansas lawmakers passed legislation that restricts access to gender-affirming care for transgender children and even punishes doctors who treat them or refer children for such treatments. It also prohibits public funds from being used to cover any of the care and private insurance from covering any such treatments or procedures before the age of 18.

The state's Republican governor, Asa Hutchinson, vetoed the bill, only to have Arkansas' mostly Republican Legislature override the veto, making Arkansas the first state to ban gender-affirming care for trans youth. The week prior, Hutchinson signed legislation that allows doctors to refuse treatment on the basis of religious or moral objections.

That is only the most recent in a string of legislation limiting the rights of trans people: on March 29, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed a ban on transgender athletes into law, and the same happened in Mississippi and Arkansas. And the Alabama Senate approved a bill that would make providing care to trans minors — including gender-affirming surgery, hormones or puberty blockers — a felony. 

Texas lawmakers are also considering a bill that would change the state's child abuse laws, making gender-affirming care illegal for minors. Parents who allow their children to undergo such treatments could be charged with child abuse (which could cause their children to be placed in foster care) and doctors performing the care would also face similar charges, which could trigger an investigation of their license.

These are not the only states where anti- LGBTQ bills are being considered by lawmakers (there is an itemized list on the ACLU's website). The bills can be seen as a response by lawmakers to President Biden's "Executive Order on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation," which he signed on Jan. 20, his first day in office.

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Conservatives have claimed since that Executive Order that its passing signals the end of girls' sports. Critics of including transgender athletes argue they have unfair physical advantages. But doctors and scientists say that is an oversimplification not supported by the facts.

The Women's Sports Foundation put out a statement rebutting such claims, saying, "We believe nothing could be further from the truth. There are many real threats to girls' and women's access and opportunity in sports; however, this [Executive Order] is not one of them."

The Human Rights Campaign created a video highlighting the lack of examples of women and girls who have "been denied opportunity because of transgender athletes," or even evidence of trans females competing in sports for that matter. The ACLU wrote its own article debunking myths about trans athletes, as well. 

Even if the bills do not pass, they create a harmful stigma around trans youth and may signal to them that their own government does not support them, even as many of them already face a lack of support for their gender identity at home. 

The Trevor Project compiled research that showed "transgender youth reported significantly increased rates of depression, suicidality and victimization compared to their cisgendered peers," adding that in the past year, "one in three transgender youth reported attempting suicide, one-third reported being a victim of sexual violence, and more than half reported a two-week period of depression." 

The best way to help transgender kids is by showing them support. Here's how.

Call your representatives. 

Transgender rights
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Let your representatives know how you feel about the discriminatory laws being passed in your state. Twenty-six states are attempting to ban trans girls from playing sports and 17 are attempting to ban gender-affirming healthcare for them. If your state is not one of those attempting to pass this legislation, you can still call your representatives to find out how they are working to support transgender youth. 

Listen to trans activists. 

ACLU attorney Chase Strangio and writer/activist Raquel Willis have compiled helpful guides on how you can be more directly involved with the fight for trans rights in Alabama, Arkansas and more. Follow Strangio here and Willis here

Let transgender kids know they are loved; affirm their gender identity. 

As previously stated, the numbers are staggering and worrisome when it comes to how many trans youth struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry has said, "Research suggests that accepting a child's affirmed gender identity and expression can decrease the risk of future psychiatric problems such as depression, anxiety, and suicidal behavior." Reach out to young people that you know and offer them support and love. Affirm them in their gender identity.

If you're a parent, Schuyler Bailar — who was the first openly trans Division One NCAA men's athlete — compiled a plethora of resources for you. Click here to see them. Bailar also has great educational resources, even if you're not a parent and are just trying to learn for yourself.

Contact your school districts. 

You don't need to be a parent to be concerned about your school district. Reach out to your local school district and ask if they are giving their staff the proper training to make sure that classrooms are an inclusive place for LGBTQ youth. Ask about their bullying policies and how they are working alongside parents to help educate them. Trans youth spend most of their time in school — help make sure it is a safe and welcoming place for them. 

Contact your workplace

Find out what your place of work is doing to become a more inclusive environment for not only your co-workers but your customers and clients. Ask if there are inclusivity trainings available for employees. Find out how your workplace is protecting LGBTQ employees. 

Donate — both to trans youth directly and to organizations that support them.

Transgender rights
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Many young trans people cannot afford the gender affirming surgeries, hormones and puberty blockers that they need in order to feel comfortable in their own skin. If you know a trans person who is raising money for their gender-affirming healthcare, consider donating if you want to support them. Or consider donating to one of these organizations: 

Donate to community centers that support trans youth and their families. 

Transgender rights
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Find out if there is a community center near you that specifically helps trans youth and offer your support. Centers like these provide support groups for both youth and parents, counseling, training for medical professionals, teachers, law enforcement individuals and more. You can see if there is one near you through CenterLink.

If you or someone you know need mental health help, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.