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Five Things to Know About Gender-Affirming Health Care

A transgender woman in a hospital gown speaking to her doctor, a transgender man, in an exam room
Here’s what transgender youth, their parents, and doctors have said about Arkansas’ ban on gender affirming care.
A transgender woman in a hospital gown speaking to her doctor, a transgender man, in an exam room
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July 15, 2021

Across the country, lawmakers have enacted sweeping attacks on transgender people — particularly transgender youth. After initially focusing primarily on restroom restrictions, opponents of trans rights have switched their target to sports. This year, Arkansas went even further, passing a ban on gender-affirming healthcare for transgender youth. Four transgender youth and two doctors joined with the ACLU to sue the state.

Arkansas’s new health care ban, scheduled to go into effect at the end of July, would not only prohibit healthcare professionals from providing or referring transgender youth for medically necessary health care, it would also allow private insurers to refuse to cover gender-affirming care for transgender people of any age. If it is allowed to go into effect, the law will have detrimental effects on the mental, emotional, and physical health of transgender people across the state.

The first court hearing addressing the constitutionality of a ban on gender-affirming care for trans youth will take place on July 21. Here are five things to know about the Arkansas ban on gender-affirming care, taken directly from the personal testimonies and briefs submitted to the court.

Trans youth know what is best for them.

“[After starting hormone therapy,] I now feel a level of confidence I never knew was possible. I can easily and confidently interact with other people, whether I know them or not. My body is finally beginning to match who I am.” — Dylan Brandt

15-year-old Dylan Brandt and the three other transgender youth in our case know who they are.

“Hormone-therapy treatment has been life-changing. Since starting hormone therapy, I have become genuinely happy and confident for the first time since I can remember. I can finally see a future for myself. My depression has subsided. I have not engaged in self -harm. I have become more engaged with my family and community.” — Sabrina Jennen, another transgender youth relying on gender-affirming healthcare.

Parents see what gender-affirming care means to their kids.

“[After accepting Brooke’s new pronouns,] it was as if a cloud lifted and Brooke’s smile came back. We had a happy, bright-eyed child again, and we were relieved to see our child flourishing once more.” — Amanda and Shayne Dennis, parents of 9-year-old Brooke Dennis.

Amanda and Shayne Dennis are just two of the many parents of transgender children who have seen the positive impact that gender-affirming care has had on their children.

“Since starting hormone therapy…she has become more engaged with her family. Treatment has made her happy, confident, and has helped her become the thriving child we love so dearly.” — Aaron and Lacey Jennen, parents of 15-year-old Sabrina.

Many young people who are not trans access gender-affirming health care.

“If House Bill 1570 (the “Health Care Ban”) takes effect, I will be prohibited from providing these treatments to my transgender patients because they relate to ‘gender transition’ but I will be able to continue providing the same treatments to my cisgender patients to help bring their bodies into alignment with their gender.” — Dr. Michelle Hutchison, one of the doctors suing the state.

Across pediatric practices, cisgender youth rely on this critical care for a variety of reasons — including to treat precocious puberty and polycystic ovarian syndrome. A Harvard Medical School and Fenway Institute study found that doctors have been using these safe medications for decades for cisgender children who go through puberty too early.

“There is nothing inherently harmful about undergoing hormone treatment to sustain one’s health and it is a common practice in many non-transgender patients for reasons unrelated to treatment of gender dysphoria. I regularly treat cisgender patients with the same hormone therapy that is provided to transgender patients.” — Dr. Deanna Adkins.

Gender-affirming care saves lives.

“Gender-affirming care, including puberty suppression and hormone therapy, is potentially lifesaving.”

That’s what the Pediatric Endocrine Society made clear in their brief to the court.

“Proper gender-affirming care can mitigate a patient’s clinical distress and lead to significant improvements in the overall well-being of youth and adolescents who are at risk of or have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria … studies show that transgender adults who received appropriate treatment during adolescence had a lower incidence of lifetime suicidal ideation than those who wanted but could not obtain such treatment.” — The American Academy of Pediatrics.

In light of this, it is not surprising that child and adolescent psychiatrists have attested that, should the Health Care Ban take effect, “the lives of some of our patients will be put at risk.”

Laws attacking trans youth will hurt the Arkansas economy.

“If the Health Care Ban takes effect, the backlash — from consumers and businesses alike — is likely to be fierce, causing a decline in economic activity within the state. This will inflict substantial harm on amici, Arkansas businesses, and all Arkansans, because all benefit from a strong economy.” — A group of businesses in a brief to the court.

This is in large part because many of the families who will be affected by the Health Care Ban are considering leaving their homes, their extended families, their communities, and even their jobs to ensure that their children are able to receive gender-affirming care.

The ban could also discourage other LGBTQ individuals and their families from moving to the state altogether, impairing:

“the ability of [Arkansas businesses] to attract and retain a diverse, inclusive, and talented workforce. As a result, it will place Arkansas’ businesses at a competitive disadvantage, both domestically and on the global stage.” — Liveramp Holdings, Inc. and Additional Business Organizations.

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