Back to News & Commentary

A Plan to Block Trans Health Care in Ohio Was Stopped — But the Fight Isn’t Over

Someone holding a sign saying "Trans People Belong."
Gender-affirming care saved Emma's life, and while she and others in her community will continue to have access to health care in their home state, the looming threat of being forced to seek care elsewhere persists for many others.
Someone holding a sign saying "Trans People Belong."
Hanna Stolzer,
Social Editor ,
Share This Page
February 15, 2024

On January 5, Governor DeWine introduced draft rules that, if implemented, would have resulted in thousands of transgender people in Ohio going without the health care they need, and forcing many to move out of their home state — including my friend, Emma. Due to an outpouring of dissent from the trans community, those proposed rules will not go into effect.

For years, politicians across the nation have been pushing legislation that would block critical gender-affirming medical care for transgender people, taking life-saving health care decisions out of the hands of trans people, their doctors, and their families, and putting it in the hands of politicians. Much of this legislation has focused on spreading inaccuracies and stoking fear specifically about care for trans youth. But the Ohio government tried to take it even further. DeWine’s proposed rules were the most extreme regulations on medical treatment for transgender adults anywhere in the United States, and would have prevented children and adults alike from receiving medically-necessary care. These changes were not based in any medical science, and were proposed against the recommendations of every major medical organization in the nation, despite the outcries from the trans community.

Emma and I are both born and raised Ohioans. We have frequently shared our fear and disappointment in the actions of Ohio’s political leaders and how out of touch they are with the wants and needs of Ohio communities. We were both part of the thousands of people who submitted comments in opposition to the opposed rules, and we both know that this is a victory worth celebrating — but also that these planned attacks against the trans community in Ohio are not in the past. I sat down with Emma to talk through what these proposed bans would have meant for her and her trans community, and how we can continue working to defend trans rights in Ohio and across the nation.

A photo of Emma M.

Emma M.

Hanna: How would the proposed changes to transgender health care access in Ohio have impacted you? How would they have impacted your friends and other trans people in the state?

Emma: I’ve lived my whole life in Ohio. It’s my home, somewhere I can be myself and be supported by my friends and family. Since the proposed changes were announced, I’ve seen the future I envisioned for myself here change drastically. If trans health care access was restricted for adults, many of us would be forced to move. Friends had told me all the places they’re considering moving to, and others were planning on leaving the country entirely. I know plenty of others, myself included, who want to stay and fight it. It’s hard though. To make it through the day, you have to have some sort of plan about what to do when things get bad. If I am ever forced to [leave], I know I’ll be able to move somewhere and be okay, but not everyone can move; it’s expensive, and it’s daunting to have to find a job somewhere else away from our friends and families.

Hanna: How do the limits on health care for trans youth tie into the proposed restrictions for the care you receive?

Emma: If you’re a trans kid in Ohio, you’re being told that you can’t be who you want to be until you’re an adult. You reach adulthood, and then the state still is trying to put laws in place to limit your access to health care. It’s just cruel because it makes it that much harder to be hopeful as a trans kid. Suicide rates among trans youth are already frighteningly high, and we know how to lower them. This is why we spread mantras like Protect Trans Kids, they’re in an increasingly difficult situation and need support. The proposed changes made me more concerned for trans youth in particular, because I think it would be really difficult to remain hopeful in the face of these extra barriers. You’d have to make it to adulthood, save money not just for the myriad of expenses that are typical for transition, but also to move out of state. To all trans kids, I want you to know that things will get better. It’s up to the rest of us to fight back and make sure we’re providing a future to look forward to for the trans youth of Ohio.

Hanna: What can people do to help, whether they’re in Ohio or wanting to support from afar when these kind of attacks on trans care are introduced by politicians?

Emma: People can do a couple things to show support. First, check in on your trans friends and family. It’s pretty hard on our mental health when laws like this are proposed or passed, even if they’re eventually defeated, and it’s helpful to know that our loved ones are here for us. It is incredibly stressful thinking about how these changes would impact our access to health care. Outside of that, we need help pushing back on the laws themselves. Show up to protests, submit your feedback online, or call your representatives to let them know how you feel about anti-trans legislation. Right now, trans people are looking to our friends to speak up and speak out. We can’t fight this battle alone. If you can, there are many great organizations worth donating to as well, like the ACLU, the ACLU of Ohio, or the TransOhio Emergency Fund, to both push back on harmful legislation and provide trans people with much needed assistance.

The Way Forward for Trans Justice

Hanna: What would it mean for you and your community if DeWine’s proposed changes to trans health care had taken effect?

Emma: It would have been devastating, because we’ve fought for this to be our home. It would have been a very clear announcement that we aren’t welcome here, and that legislators will keep trying to push us out. Not everyone can afford to move to the safety of another state. It’s already a struggle for some trans adults to access medical care, largely because of long wait times. I think these proposed changes would have worsened that issue and placed an unfair burden on trans people that would have negatively affected our physical and mental health. I didn’t believe these changes were an accurate representation of what the people of Ohio wanted, and I’m grateful that with enough awareness, people provided the support we needed to shut down these proposals. It was an immeasurable relief that the proposals were changed, thanks to a massive influx of comments from the community. I think there’s more to be done, it’s easy to fall into a false sense of security now that some provisions have been walked back, but the reality is trans youth is still actively affected and trans adults remain a political target. We need to keep this energy, this outpouring of support, to prevent future attempts by the state against trans rights.

Hanna: How has access to gender-affirming care affected your quality of life?

Emma: Unequivocally, I can say gender-affirming care saved my life. It’s difficult for me to explain what it was like before I came out and had access to gender-affirming care. I had been dangerously depressed for a long time and didn’t have hope that things were going to get better. It felt like I was living someone else’s life, where none of the pieces fit. I think from the outside it seemed like I should have been happy. I had a loving family, a great group of friends, and did well in school. The reality was that I was disconnected from it, and tried desperately to hide how hopeless I felt. I was unaware that there were other people like me, and there were resources to help transition. Luckily, I came out and had support from friends and family. I’m truly happy with my life now, and hopeful for my future. Gender-affirming care isn’t just hormones or surgeries, it’s a whole range of things that might not be the same for everyone. For me, the first thing was seeing a therapist who helped me work through my anxieties related to transitioning, then other medical professionals to start hormone replacement therapy. They made sure I was well informed through every step in the process. It lifted that weight off my shoulders, helped me feel at home in my body. Being happy in your body is fundamental, and because of that, I’m able to find joy in things I didn’t before. The reality was that before, hobbies were just a way to distract myself, and now they’re things I choose to pursue for happiness. I’ve picked up softball, reading, music, and even sewing. I attribute the change in my mental health completely to gender-affirming care, it’s helped me to see myself and life in a new light. Gender-affirming care gave me the hope I needed to continue, and I’m thankful everyday for it.

Learn More About the Issues on This Page