Arkansas Republicans Have Declared War on Trans Kids With Despicable Anti-Trans Bill

Sara Li
·5 min read
Photo credit: NurPhoto - Getty Images
Photo credit: NurPhoto - Getty Images

From Cosmopolitan

This article contains mentions of suicide rates in trans youth. If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health and would like someone to talk to, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741-741.

On Monday, the Arkansas Senate passed a horrifying bill that would ban trans minors from having access to gender-affirming health care, such as reversible puberty blockers and hormones. Of the many anti-trans pieces of legislation that have been introduced around the country, Arkansas’s bill is considered by many to be one of the most violent and extreme.

If Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson signs the bill—and it seems likely that he will—the state will be the first in the country to ban gender-affirming care for trans youth. The bill would effectively rip away care for trans folks up until they’re 19 years old and would include felony penalties; it would also block public funds, such as Medicaid, from being used for transition-related care.

Young trans people who are receiving care right now will lose access, which medical professionals have warned will have a profoundly traumatic effect on patients. The bill would also demand that school workers “out” transgender students.

Despite testimonies from trans advocates and health care professionals during the state’s Senate hearing, the bill still advanced. Michele Hutchison, a pediatric doctor, said there were a number of kids in the emergency room for attempted suicide after the bill passed in the state’s House.

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Gender-affirming care is lifesaving. This isn’t a metaphor or an exaggeration—it’s a science that’s been backed by mental health professionals from all over the country. The fact is that giving young people access to health care will reduce their risk for suicide and depression. Trans youth have some of the highest rates for suicide and PTSD, and Arkansas’s bill will surely only contribute to the mental health crisis for trans people.

According to Chase Strangio, deputy director for transgender justice at the American Civil Liberties Union LGBT & HIV Project, this bill is “the single most extreme anti-trans law to ever pass through a state legislature.”

Unfortunately, Arkansas is not the only state looking to pass anti-trans legislation. Republican lawmakers in at least 17 states have introduced similar bills that aim to limit the rights of transgender young people when it comes to health care and high school sports teams.

For example, last week, Tennessee’s House advanced a similar bill that would make it a misdemeanor for health care workers to provide gender-affirming care to minors; it also requires trans youth to have two physicians and a child psychiatrist sign off on treatment. Alabama aims to pass similar restrictions. Given how pervasive transphobia runs in the medical community and the overall difficulty of access to health care as a whole, these pieces of legislation are thinly veiled ways to ensure trans youth will be unable to complete their transitions.

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Despite the support of gender-affirming care from massive medical organizations such as the American Medical Association and American Psychiatric Association, the Arkansas Senate still chose to move forward. Efforts by organizations—including the ACLU—to fight the bill are currently underway and organizers across the country are working hard to ensure that this continued attack on trans folks will not be successful.

You can join in the fight, even if you don’t live in Arkansas, by demanding Governor Hutchinson veto the bill. Call 501-682-2345 or email asa.hutchinson@governor.arkansas.gov with this email template.

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And if you are trans youth in Arkansas or anywhere else in the United States where your rights and access to health care may be threatened, resources are available. Start here:

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