Trans Children Need Support not Suppression

Living in the richest, most powerful country the world has ever known, it is a mystery how we continue to make life so difficult for kids. Already suffering from the inability of adults to unify during a crisis, untold thousands of children across our country are now in the crosshairs of our latest unforced political blunder—the battle to stop trans kids from being trans kids.

The recent anti-family interpretation of law manufactured by the Texas attorney general and amplified by the Texas governor's directive, attempts to advance the grossly false idea that treating transgender youth with gender-affirming medical care is child abuse. To be clear, these opinions are not legally binding -- but they do spread fear and misinformation and could spur false reporting of child abuse. They threaten to criminalize parents, hurt kids, and have already served as inspiration for similar, far-right legislation in Alabama, Ohio, Oklahoma, Idaho, Wisconsin, Arizona and Tennessee. These efforts intentionally and misleadingly equate providing behavioral supports to a trans child as child abuse. They are wrong. Gender-affirming care saves lives and there is nothing pro-child in limiting any kid's access to professional therapy. 

To make matters worse, their efforts, which are based more in politics than either science or law, attack the positive support network that trans kids are supposed to rely on. It threatens loving parents and guardians with having the state take their children away from them if they have the audacity to acknowledge and support their trans child. It bullies the people we want kids to turn to for help -- nurses, doctors, teachers, therapists and other healthcare professionals -- by ordering them to ignore medical consensus, as well as their professional oaths or risk losing their license to practice. 

Every major medical association has made clear that gender-affirming treatments are medically necessary for certain youth. Supporting trans kids saves lives and forcing them to suppress or hide who they are risks lives. It is immoral to intimidate trans kids for political gain, and increasing fear and loneliness can be deadly. A Harvard study found that trans kids are at greater risk of depression, a greater risk of anxiety, a greater risk of suicidal thoughts, a greater risk of suicidal attempts, and a greater risk of self-harm than their non-transgender peers. Access to age-appropriate behavioral support is life-affirming. No one would ever suggest that it’s acceptable to prohibit necessary treatment for non-transgender kids, and access to necessary treatment should not be determined by politically motivated misinformation campaigns.

Ignorance seems to be at the heart of such policy, so let's be clear. Gender reassignment surgery is not recommended for minors by either the Endocrine Society or the World Professional Association of Transgender Health. Neither of them recommends puberty blockers for kids prior to puberty and neither of them recommend hormone treatment for kids under 16 (both, by the way, are reversible treatments). But they do recommend full access to behavioral supports.

While no Pennsylvania legislator has as yet to introduce anti-trans legislation inspired by Texas' policy, we are not immune to similar efforts and it would be wise to watch for more in Harrisburg. Only a couple of years ago, the majority party brought up H.B. 1933 for consideration. This bill would have prohibited trans kids from behavioral supports if they relied on Medicaid or CHIP for their health insurance. To put it another way, the therapy itself would not have been banned, it would just not have been accessible for trans kids who were poor or who had a disability. This discriminatory bill actually was reported out of the House Health Committee on a party-line vote before thankfully seeing no further action. 

We have so many issues that require our attention and us to work together. As waves of anti-trans bills are considered in state legislatures across the nation, we hope that here in Pennsylvania it is long past time that elected officials stop using their power to attack trans youth and instead choose to make our commonwealth safe—no matter one’s age, race, ability or gender—for all Pennsylvanians, especially our kids. 

Rep. Dan Miller

Rep. Emily Kinkead