A new Alabama law banning gender-affirming medical care for transgender minors was in effect for less than a week before a judge ruled that several of its provisions were unconstitutional. The law is part of a larger trend of state legislation targeting trans and gay youth. Some of the legislation, like the Alabama ban, would make it a felony to provide puberty blockers, hormone therapy, or surgery to minors. Other laws, like one in Florida, prohibit any conversation about sexuality or gender in classrooms below a certain grade level. Still others would prevent trans girls from using girls’ bathrooms.
Proponents of such legislation say they are only trying to protect children. There is a particularly cruel irony in this claim. Transgender youth are among the most vulnerable people in society. They are disproportionately subject to bullying and abuse and are significantly more likely than their cisgender peers to attempt suicide and struggle with serious depression. Numerous studies have associated affirming children’s gender identities with improved mental health, and national surveys by the Trevor Project suggest that the best way to reduce the number of suicide attempts by LGBTQ youth is to provide a welcoming and accepting environment for them. Despite such evidence, one Tennessee bill would give teachers the right to “misgender” their students.