Health Care for Trans Youth is Not Abuse

Demonstrators protest a Texas policy to regard gender-affirming treatments for transgender youth as "child abuse" at the State Capitol in Austin, Texas on March 1, 2022. (Christopher Lee, New York Times)

Last Friday, the Supreme Court of Texas allowed the state to resume child abuse investigations into parents of transgender youth, something previously blocked by a lower court. Now, parents who provide their transgender or non-binary children access to gender-affirming care, such as puberty blockers and hormones, can be investigated by the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). Though DFPS is not legally required to investigate all cases, this ruling still means that parents of children receiving gender-affirming care can be put on state child abuse registries and even lose custody of their children — all for giving their kids access to necessary medical services.

This policy has been opposed by a number of medical groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Association of Social Workers, and the American Psychological Association, with the Texas Pediatric Society writing in a statement that it would “directly threaten the health and well-being of transgender youth.” Healthcare decisions should be left up to the patient, their parents (as appropriate), and their doctor — not politicians or lawyers.

This is yet another attack on peoples’ rights to pursue the medical interventions they decide are best for themselves, and is a clear threat to the safety of transgender youth. Transgender and non-binary youth experience anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation at much higher rates than their cisgender peers. On the other hand, a wealth of research shows that gender-affirming care improves the mental health and overall well-being of trans children — quite the opposite of abuse. Gender-affirming care saves lives.

And it’s not just trans youth who are under attack. We’ve also seen abortion access seriously threatened, putting millions of women and those who can get pregnant at risk. The politicians and lawyers should have no say when it comes to our bodies, and therefore our futures. But much like the struggles we waged to gain abortion access or gender-affirming care in the first place, we’ll have to fight if we want to create a future where our lives and decisions about our bodies are our own.