OPINION: Access to gender-affirming healthcare is becoming a trans privilege – and that’s a problem

by Kate Brookes | .
Friday, 7 July 2023 11:25 GMT

A person holds a sign as people attend a "March for Queer & Trans Youth Autonomy" in Washington, D.C., U.S., March 31, 2023. REUTERS/Leah Millis

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* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Access to life-saving healthcare should never be a privilege, but a right, writes Kate Brookes

Kate Brookes is author of “Transister: Raising Twins in a Gender-Bending World”

My 14-year-old daughter burst into my bedroom last week wearing a new bra and a big smile, twirled ceremoniously, and half questioned half declared, “Can you believe it, mom? I’m finally a B cup!”

It was all I could do not to laugh…or cry.

The estrogen therapy Gabby began just over a year ago is not only helping her develop breasts and curves but also an increased sense of confidence and belonging. Combined with the puberty blockers she’s been taking for several years, her body is beginning to resemble the young woman that she is.

This is how it should be, of course: kid needs care, kid receives care, kid thrives. Yet somehow, given the anti-trans sentiment permeating Republican-controlled state legislatures, I can’t help but wonder if my daughter has some sort of “trans privilege.”

And let’s be clear, there is absolutely no privilege to being trans. NOT ONE. Trans youth face increased risks of violence and suicide, are six times more likely than their cisgender peers to be bullied in school, and experience higher rates of homelessness.

And here’s my daughter, who lives in a home where we affirm, accept, and respect her gender identity and attends a school that not only declares itself an ally but acts accordingly. She’s got access to some of the best gender-affirming therapists and doctors in the country. And her dad and I have the financial resources to enable her to receive this care.

Sadly, more than 44% of trans youth live in states where gender-affirming care has been banned or is at risk of being taken away.

Two months ago, a friend of mine from Florida called me crying after her daughter’s doctor refused to continue her treatment. I immediately connected them with Gabby’s endocrinologist, and last week they flew in for an appointment so the doctor could replace her histrelin implant with a new one that will block her puberty for at least another year.

I was thrilled to make the introduction and even more thrilled they were able to secure an appointment before her blocker’s efficacy declined.

But what about trans youth in the other 19 states which, like Florida, have banned gender-affirming care? What if their parents can’t afford to fly them to New York for treatment?

The studies are clear.

Gender-affirming care helps reduce depression and suicidality in trans and non-binary youth. When did not attempting suicide become a privilege?

While Gabby is well-adjusted, smart, savvy, beautiful and has tons of friends, she hates being trans. “Why did I have to be born this way?” Gabby routinely asks. “It’s not fair,” she tells me.

I agree. It’s not fair. And part of me feels guilty for giving birth to a child whose outsides largely betray her insides. I’m also supremely grateful that puberty blockers and hormones have helped her feel more comfortable in her own skin.

It wasn’t until last month when Gabby overheard a lawmaker blasting blockers on the news that she matter-of-factly turned to me and admitted, “You know, mom, if I wasn’t on puberty blockers, I definitely would have killed myself.”

My daughter is already counting down the days until she can undergo gender- affirmation surgery. Despite what ant-trans folks would like you to believe, she needs to wait until she’s 18 for the “privilege” of having a body that aligns with her gender.

But I can’t wait, and neither should you. As parents, friends, and LGBTQ+ allies, we must demand lawmakers fight to preserve gender-affirming healthcare. Call your congressman/congresswoman. Write an op-ed. Vote to ensure access. Donate money so more trans youth can receive the care they so desperately need and deserve. Because life-saving healthcare should never be a privilege, but a right.

In the meantime, I’m taking my daughter bra shopping. She needs more B-cups.

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