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    Message to Anti-Trans Forces: Mind Your Own Business

    By John Lewis and Stuart Gaffney–

    Mind your own business. That’s what Republican and other opponents of LGBTIQ equality bluntly need to be told in response to their utterly cruel, hypocritical, and exploitative efforts to deprive transgender youth of life-saving gender-affirming medical care.

    Last year, Arkansas became the first state in the union—with many more seeking to follow—to pass a law interfering with the ability of health care professionals and parents to ensure that transgender minors receive needed medical care, in accord with current standards of care for treating gender dysphoria. Medical professionals in the state who provide such care are subject to lawsuits and discipline for unprofessional conduct.

    The ACLU immediately challenged the law upon its passage, and a federal district court enjoined its enforcement. Arkansas appealed the decision, and the case is now pending on appeal.

    In legal briefing, the ACLU explained that medical protocols for treating minors with gender dysphoria involve a lengthy process that potentially entails carefully staged interventions, including puberty delaying medication, hormone therapy, and in some cases chest reconstruction surgery. Both the teenager and their parents must give fully informed consent, and no interventions are made unless deemed medically necessary. Every major professional health association in the country endorses these scientifically based medical protocols to prevent trans youth from experiencing extreme harm and distress.

    The cruelty of interfering with trans youth receiving proper care is clear and manifest. The ACLU legal briefing describes how the mere introduction of the Arkansas legislation resulted in a local physician’s office receiving “calls from numerous families, panicking because their children were expressing suicidal thoughts at the prospect of losing the healthcare they rely on for their well-being, and four of the clinic’s patients—and three other transgender adolescents—were hospitalized after suicide attempts.”

    Last month, the State of Texas took it a step further when Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton bypassed the legislature and issued a legal opinion stating that some types of gender-affirming medical care for minors constituted “child abuse.” Governor Greg Abbott then directed the state child welfare agency to investigate parents of children who received such care and called on the public to report parents they suspect of helping their children receive it. Trans kids face the threat of being removed from their homes and placed in the foster system. A Texas judge blocked the investigations from going forward, but Abbott and Paxton have appealed the decision and maintain the investigations can continue.

    Even more draconian measures are currently under consideration in other states controlled by conservative Republicans. The Idaho Assembly early this month passed legislation making it a felony, punishable by up to life imprisonment, for a medical professional or parent to participate in providing gender-affirming care. The legislation criminalized going out of state to obtain it, too. Last week the Idaho State Senate rejected the measure, but legislation in Alabama making it a felony up to 10 years in prison for physicians to provide the care appears likely to pass. Legislation in multiple other Republican held states remains pending.

    The hypocrisy of the Republicans’ efforts is unmistakable. Earlier this month, Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis proclaimed 2022 “the year of the parent” as he endorsed Florida’s notorious “Don’t Say Gay” bill interfering with discussion of LGBTIQ people in public schools. The legislation, formally titled the “Parental Right Rights in Education” bill, declares that parents in Florida have “the fundamental right of parents to make decisions regarding the upbringing and control of their children.” 

    But what about the rights of the parents of transgender kids?  What could be a more fundamental right of parenting than the freedom to engage physicians practicing the latest professionally based standard of care to provide their children affirming live-saving treatment?

    The hypocrisy appears too much for even some Republicans to bear. Conservative Republican Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson actually vetoed the Arkansas legislation, terming it “vast government overreach” that made “the state as the definitive oracle of medical care, overriding parents, patients and healthcare experts.” But the Arkansas legislature quickly overrode his veto.

    For years, political opponents of LGBTIQ dignity and equality have used whatever message or strategy they have found effective to raise money, motivate their base, or scare voters—particularly in an election year such as 2022. They exploit public discomfort, uncertainty, or lack of understanding of a particular issue pertaining to LGBTIQ people for their own political gain without concern for the toll their actions take on LGBTIQ people and their friends and family.

    Although these opponents care little about the actual substance of the issue they assert, their talking points often emphasizing the need to protect children, distract the media from their actual motives, and stir their base and sometimes the general electorate. It is critical to understand that opponents’ interests and tactics are political at their core and shift over time as Americans eventually come to reject each one of them.

    We find this current iteration—Republicans’ naked exploitation of the vulnerability of trans youth—to be particularly callous and inhumane. As Lambda Legal Senior Counsel Paul Castillo said: “Parents who love their transgender children and work with healthcare providers to support and affirm their well-being should be celebrated, rather than investigated as criminals.” 

    Numerous courageous trans youth, their families, and other LGBTIQ people have spoken up to Republicans and other opponents at legislative hearings across the country about the devastating effects of legislation targeting trans and other LGBTIQ youth. It’s time we all tell them to stop interfering in our lives and simply mind their own business.

    John Lewis and Stuart Gaffney, together for over three decades, were plaintiffs in the California case for equal marriage rights decided by the California Supreme Court in 2008. Their leadership in the grassroots organization Marriage Equality USA contributed in 2015 to making same-sex marriage legal nationwide.

    Published on March 24, 2022