Skip to content Skip to footer

Trans and Nonbinary Youth Say Their Health Care Shouldn’t Be Up for “Debate”

The wave of anti-trans bills is injecting dangerous misinformation about LGBTQ people into the mainstream.

People protesting bills HB 1686 and SB 14 at a "Fight For Our Lives" rally outside the Texas State Capitol clash with an anti-trans group on March 27, 2023, in Austin, Texas.

“Child abusers.”

Those were the words anti-trans activists were shouting as they interrupted a rally held by hundreds of civil rights and LGBTQ activists who gathered at the Texas Capitol in Austin on Monday.

The rhetoric was just as heated inside at a marathon committee hearing on legislation that would ban gender-affirming health care for people under the age of 18.

Republicans baselessly threw around terms such as “child genital mutilation,” even after experts repeatedly testified that genital reconstructive surgeries are only performed on some adults with persistent gender dysphoria, as well as certain intersex children — and in the latter case, only under orders from their parents.

“The people who have the strongest opinions often know the least,” said Colt St. Amand, a physician and psychologist who specializes in gender-affirming care for trans and nonbinary youth.

The legislation, HB 1686, is part of an onslaught of anti-LGBTQ legislation in Texas and across the country that activists say is injecting misinformation into the media and putting trans and nonbinary lives at risk.

“Part of the reason for the harassment and intimidation is the misinformation that has been spread about these issues, and it has made people really dig down into false beliefs about what is happening,” said Adri Pérez, an organizer with Texas Freedom Network, a watchdog of far right legislation.

Gender-affirming care for young people is a conservative obsession, and the right-wing internet — especially Twitter — is choked with conspiracy theories fed by extremists and anti-LGBTQ groups. Far right pundits and their followers frequently post about children having parts of their bodies lopped off by a cabal of liberal idealogues, an idea rooted in anti-Jewish conspiracy theories and blatant ignorance of the multidisciplinary practice of providing health care to trans people.

As a result of the misinformation and anti-trans bills, 50 percent of the estimated 300,000 transgender teenagers across the country are at risk of losing access to health care that experts and medical associations agree can be lifesaving.

The right wing’s anti-LGBTQ rhetoric is dangerous, especially for transgender and nonbinary people, who make up about 1 percent of the adult population and report widespread discrimination and harassment, according to a new nationwide survey. One in four say they have been physically attacked due to gender, including 30 percent of trans people of color. It’s well known that trans and nonbinary youth disproportionately report mental distress and bullying.

Trans and nonbinary youth witnesses and their family members testifying before the hearing in Texas said that they feel both attacked by the federal government and used as “political pawns.” Conspiracy theories about their lives and health care are exploding on social media, pushing lawmakers in Texas to float extreme proposals, including a ban on health care that affirms children whose mere appearance does not reflect the gender they were assigned at birth. Meanwhile, research shows that the corporate media often ignores the voices of young people affected by these policies.

The impact is clear. A recent survey by the Trevor Project found that 86 percent of trans and nonbinary youth say “recent debates around anti-trans bills” have negatively impacted their mental health in the last year. Another 45 percent said they were cyberbullied as a result of the very “debates” in which their own lives are most at stake.

Gloria, a young person who testified before the committee, said her brother nearly committed suicide after reading headlines about the Texas crackdown on trans youth and their families. Parents told the lawmakers that passing the legislation would force their families to leave the state.

“There is nothing wrong with loving and supporting your children for being LGBTQ or transgender, and the only reason you would think that [it is] is you think trans people shouldn’t exist,” Pérez said. “But we do, and we have throughout history, and we will continue to do so.”

A growing movement of LGBTQ youth is determined to fight back, with students staging walkouts and protests across the country.

“People should be allowed private medical decisions between themselves and their parents and their doctors, and that should be the end of it,” Pérez said.