By: Dr. Angela Kade Goepferd, (she/they), chief education officer and medical director of the Gender Health program at Children’s Minnesota.
On Feb. 22, Texas Governor Greg Abbott directed the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services and other state agencies to investigate certain gender-affirming services as child abuse, following a legal opinion that was issued by the Texas attorney general earlier this week. In response, families of transgender children in Texas rushed to social media, pleading for help and support and, in some cases, setting up GoFundMe accounts to try to move their families out of Texas. Pediatricians and other clinicians across the state began to reach out to their colleagues across the country, asking for help in caring for their patients, providing links for how to access a medical license in Texas from another state. As a parent myself, I can’t imagine thinking that my child might be removed from my home because I am doing everything in my power to love and support their authentic identity. As a pediatrician, I can’t imagine being reported for child abuse or having my medical license revoked for providing gender affirming health care to kids and teenagers that has been supported through evidence-based research and expert opinion by every major medical society in this country (American Academy of Pediatrics, American Psychological Association, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine) and across the world. This is terrorism.
No two children are alike. Each has their own unique needs, especially when it comes to the health care they receive. This is true for all kids, regardless of their gender identity, but especially true for transgender and gender diverse kids, who are also navigating their care in an increasingly hostile social environment. Gender-affirming care for transgender youth has long been supported by several professional medical societies, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, who have urged that youth who identify as transgender have access to comprehensive, gender-affirming and developmentally-appropriate care. Given the nuances and uniqueness of each child, this care should be informed by the parents and clinicians who know the child best.
Furthermore, studies show that for young people who identify as transgender, gender-affirming care can decrease behavioral and emotional distress, and has positive effects on body image and overall well-being while reducing thoughts of suicide. In addition, transgender youth living in states where government legislation is introduced that seeks to ban them from competing in sports, accessing health care or public facilities (restrooms), causes increased stigmatization and contributes to increased rates of depression, anxiety and suicidality. Therefore, providing access to inclusive and gender-affirming care can literally be lifesaving for transgender and gender diverse kids.
To those across the country who are criminalizing evidence-based, gender affirming care for transgender and gender diverse youth, stop terrorizing kids, families and those who care for them. To my fellow pediatricians, let’s come together to protect transgender kids and families who need us to advocate for them and protect the sanctity of our physician-patient-family relationship. To all of the parents and families of transgender kids, I stand with you and will never stop fighting for you and your families. And to every single transgender kid out there, you are perfect and amazing just the way you are, and deserve a world that celebrates you and keeps you safe.