Tennessee Bans Gender-Affirming Care for Trans Youth

The Tennessee legislature has passed a law that will ban gender-affirming care for trans youth starting on July 1st, 2023. It requires that any person under the age of 18 who is currently receiving gender-affirming care have their care ended by March 2024.

In conjunction with a state senate bill, HB 1 was passed in the Tennessee House 77-16 on February 23rd, with three Democrats joining the Republican members in support of the bill. Governor Bill Lee (he/him) signed the bill into law on March 2nd, 2023. This occurred alongside a highly publicized “drag ban,” which made “adult cabaret performances” illegal in public spaces or in places minors might view it.

Section b of the law presents the following reason for banning gender-affirming care for trans youth: “The legislature determines that there is evidence that medical procedures that alter a minor’s hormonal balance, remove a minor’s sex organs, or otherwise change a minor’s physical appearance are not consistent with professional medical standards when the medical procedures are performed for the purpose of enabling a minor to identify with, or live as, a purported identity inconsistent with the minor’s sex … because a minor’s discordance can be resolved by less invasive approaches that are likely to result in better outcomes for the minor.”

This understanding is not universally accepted among medical professionals. In a piece for the American Academy of Pediatrics entitled “Why We Stand Up for Transgender Children and Teens,” Dr. Moira Szilagyi writes, “There is strong consensus among the most prominent medical organizations worldwide that evidence-based, gender-affirming care for transgender children and adolescents is medically necessary and appropriate. It can even be lifesaving.” She goes on to state that the decision to pursue gender-affirming treatment, “which does not necessarily lead to hormone therapy or surgery,” is a personal decision that patients and their families carefully consider.

The American Civil Liberties Union has vowed to challenge the law. In a joint statement, The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Tennessee, and Lambda Legal said, “We will not allow this dangerous law to stand. Certain politicians and Gov. Lee have made no secret of their intent to discriminate against youth who are transgender or their willful ignorance about the life-saving health care they seek to ban. Instead, they’ve chosen fearmongering, misrepresentations, intimidation, and extremist politics over the rights of families and the lives of transgender youth in Tennessee.”

According to a tracker created by the ACLU, similar legislation has been passed in Arkansas, Mississippi, South Dakota, and Utah, with many other states considering similar bills. On March 16th, Florida became the latest state to limit healthcare for trans youth, as the Florida Board of Medicine instituted a rule that prevents minors from receiving hormone therapy or puberty blockers.

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