Gender-responsive care saves lives | Blogs
Seven years ago, I stood before the Tennessee General Assembly testifying that trans people should use the bathroom according to their gender. Seven years later, the Tennessee legislature is back, only this time trying to change medical standards of care in Tennessee to make it harder for trans youth to access gender-affirming health care.
What is gender-affirming care? Gender-affirming care is health care that meets the physical, social, and mental health needs of transgender people while affirming their gender identity. This type of health care often includes hormone therapy and puberty blockers for trans youth, a type of care that the Tennessee legislature is trying to change and criminalize, undermining the decision-making power of parents and trans youth.
Gender-affirming care has been proven to improve the well-being of trans youth and is considered vital for many. Gender-affirming care is considered best practice in medical care because denial of such care can be life-threatening.
Studies show that banning gender-affirming care contributes to depression, social isolation, self-hatred, risk of self-harm and suicidal behavior.
Additionally, a recent study showed that trans youth receiving gender-affirming hormone therapy reported a lower likelihood of experiencing depression and attempting suicide in the past year.
Medical institutions — unlike the Tennessee legislature — agree that safely guided gender-affirming care for trans youth is not a criminal offense, but standard, ethical practice.
These institutions include the American Medical Society, American Psychological Society, American Psychiatric Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, and Endocrine Society. If this bill were to pass, it would create a new, stricter standard of care, criminalizing any doctor who deviates from the new standard, even with parental consent.
As a researcher and social work professional, I have worked directly with trans youth and at some point in my life was a trans youth. When I worked with trans youth in the state of Tennessee, I was often the only person in their corner.
Most of them were in foster care because they had been kicked out of their homes by unsupportive parents.
And all of them, from the age of 18, have sought care that affirms their gender.
Even for me, regardless of input from the Tennessee Legislature, I would have transitioned and sought gender-affirming care as soon as I was able. Luckily, I had and still have a supportive family when I started hormone therapy and underwent gender-affirming chest surgery. Having the support of those around me allowed me to become the person I always wanted to be.
In a world that can be cruel and even violent towards trans people, the best thing friends, families and even state legislatures can do is support young people as they grow into the person they want to be. . Our existence as trans people is not a criminal offence. And our right to gender-affirming care, with medical advice, should not be a criminal offence.
The proposed bill, House Bill 578, is a solution to create a problem that does not exist. The basis of this bill is strictly political and not medical. If it were medical, lawmakers would listen to medical experts and institutions, and not be fueled by violent political desires to attack an already vulnerable community.
Everyone in Tennessee has the right to seek ethical health care, including trans youth and their families. The state of Tennessee — especially legislators with little or no medical training — should not unilaterally change the standards of care established by medical institutions. If this bill passes, giving Tennessee lawmakers the ability to make medical decisions for Tennessee residents, what medical decision will they attempt to make next? Why should a state legislature have a say in an individual’s personal medical decisions?
Take action now by emailing lawmakers encouraging the House Health Committee to vote NO on HB578 on February 9. And if you want to go further, ask your legislator to focus on problems that actually exist and affect the people of Tennessee rather than creating solutions to problems that don’t exist.
Brendon T. Holloway grew up in Kingsport and earned a bachelor’s degree in social work from Middle Tennessee State University. Holloway is a trans person, social worker, and current board member of the Tennessee Equality Project.