Utah Gov. Spencer Cox signed a bill that prevents healthcare workers from providing transgender youth with hormonal treatments or sex characteristic surgical procedures on Jan. 28. In defense of signing the bill, Cox argued that more research needs to be published on the topic before hormonal or surgical procedures can be serviced to minors.
Bans like the one in Utah prevent transgender youth from receiving life-saving treatment. Transgender youth are a particularly vulnerable population with extremely high rates of suicide. Unconditional acceptance from their family and society, as well as access to gender-affirming care is crucial to the well-being of transgender youth. Yet, states like Utah are limiting transgender youth’s access to gender-affirming care.
Gender-affirming care, also known as medical transitioning, is one key aspect of the transition for some transgender people. This process often includes puberty blockers and gender-affirming hormone therapy. Puberty blockers delay the body’s release of sex hormones during the age of sexual maturation. Without puberty blockers, puberty will occur normally and transgender youth will grow body characteristics that may not align with their gender identity. Puberty blockers are also reversible, as once they are not taken anymore the “body will resume puberty exactly as it would have had they never taken the medication.” Hormone therapy, on the other hand, enables the body to form characteristics aligned with an individual’s gender identity.
Without having access to these treatments, transgender youth are at risk for developing poor mental health.
Research indicates that 82% of transgender youth have considered committing suicide, and 40% have made attempts. This is an alarmingly high percentage compared to the general population’s suicide rate, and categorizes transgender youth as a group that needs specific legislative protection.
Allowing youth to have access to this gender-affirming care is crucial for improving their mental health.
In particular, gender-affirming care reduces the likelihood of depression by improving the “mental health and overall well-being”of trans youth. Gender-affirming care has also been shown to lower feelings of minority stress and gender dysphoria.
Utah’s Republican government shows blatant disregard for credible research on gender-affirming care. In contrast to what Cox might suggest, research does not suggest banning gender affirming treatment is a good idea. Instead, the research speaks to its positive impact. Cox stated that “more and more experts, states and countries around the world are pausing these permanent and life-altering treatments for new patients until more and better research can help determine the long-term consequences.”
Ultimately, Cox relies on studies that do not prove his claims. One study he referenced simply stated that acceptance reduces suicide in transgender youth, saying nothing about gender-affirming care being harmful for them. Furthermore, his concern about children taking hormone replacement therapy too early is unjustified, as puberty blockers give them more time to think and prevent them from rushing into it. Once they have had that time to think, they can continue to proceed with gender hormone therapy if they decide to.
Banning gender-affirming care in Utah will continue the harmful precedent set by states like Florida, whose Department of Health advised against gender-affirming care, and Alabama, whose government attempted to make it a felony for doctors to administer treatment. 58,000 transgender youth in the U.S. already face restrictions to gender-affirming care, and this pattern will continue as more states see the opportunity to pass bills of their own.
If people do not push back against Utah’s ban, it will send the message that the U.S. is complacent toward harmful bans against transgender youth. Action must be taken now, before it is too late and many more lives are lost. You can contact Cox’s office here to show your support for transgender youth and to demand the recall of this ban.
Lindsey Blake is an Opinion Intern for the winter 2023 quarter. She can be reached at email@example.com.