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Arkansas transgender law makes it the worst state in the US for transgender children

It was when the governor of Arkansas vetoed his state’s bill to criminalize transgender health care on Monday that it really struck me: the only thing protecting trans children right now is our anger. That anger will probably run out.

There are more than a dozen bills proposed in state legislatures intended to make the same changes, and the next bill might not generate the same uproar.

Arkansas became the first state to ban sex-affirming health care for minors on Tuesday. Still, there are more than a dozen bills proposed in state legislatures intended to make the same changes, and the next bill might not generate the same uproar. On the one hand, it won’t be so new. With every bill and every round of outrage, the thought of children being hurt will not shock us as much. Many cisgender people passionate about this matter will turn to another, fresher outrage; each partial victory will feel like proof that they have won and permission to move on.

None of this should be this surprising. Trans children have been the subject of tremendous moral panic for years. You may already be familiar with the biggest hits: Abigail Shrier’s book “Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze That’s Seducing Our Daughters”, in which she argues that transmasculine teens are deceived victims of “peer contagion,” or Jesse Singal’s famous Atlantic cover “When Children Say They’re Trans,” a cool piece about parents who “convinced” their children not to make the transition.

This rhetoric has consequences, and we see them. In the United Kingdom, the Tavistock v. Bell found that adolescents were unable to consent to gender-affirming health care, even though they were considered competent to consent to most other forms of medical treatment. This effectively bans trans health care for children. On March 26, Tavistock was largely set aside when a court ruled that parents could consent to gender care on behalf of their children.

In the United States, we have the onslaught of bills to create the same ban. The Arkansas bill was vetoed, but the General Assembly voted to overturn the governor, making the state the first to ban gender-affirming treatment and surgery for transgender youth. Chase Strangio at the American Civil Liberties Union has already pledged legal action against the Arkansas bill, but the groups that come together to prevent these children’s transitions are not going to end with a single defeat, or even a great victory. If Arkansas is currently America’s worst state for transgender children, it won’t be for long.

It is not a question of who is “right”. If facts could win this, trans people and their allies would win.

It is not a question of who is “right”. If facts could win this, trans people and their allies would win.

“Transition”, for children, is not a risky medical decision involving hormones and surgery. For the most part, this is not a medical decision at all; Most trans kids only need the right outfits and hairstyles, and teens will also take fully reversible puberty blockers until they’re old enough to decide on surgery.

Denying the transition of children, however, is a major, irreversible, and severely impairing process with great risk: it forces children through bad puberty, keeps them in dysphoric pain during the already vulnerable years of adolescence, and makes their adult transitions much more difficult. . This assumes that children survive to adulthood. Many will not.

Yet inflammatory rhetoric has been allowed to seep into the nation’s bloodstream as anti-trans activists run rampant state after state with identical bills targeting these children. When I say that the only thing that protects trans children is the anger of adults, I mean it: their life and their future depends on an elected official (probably conservative) who looks out of his window or his wire on the networks. social and thinks, “Wow, if I really do this stuff is illegal, people will be really mad.”

While I’m not a mind reader, it seems clear that the Governor of Arkansas almost certainly signed this veto because there was a national outcry over the brutality of the policies his state was adopting. He rationally believed that the political cost he would incur outweighed the political benefits of siding with the transphobes. The lives of countless children depend on men like him doing the same calculations and getting the same results.

The relentless disasters of the Trump years have shown us exactly how carpet bombing campaigns like this play out: Bills criminalizing trans health care will keep coming, one after another, until almost nobody makes the headlines anymore, until some other big cause or crisis comes along to distract our attention. And then when we’re all exhausted and everyone stops getting angry, the bills will go by and more children will likely die.

Trans people are obviously going to fight this until the end. Yet trans people are a tiny minority in this country, less than 1 percent by some estimates, and the success of any political fight depends on a lot of cis people who care too. It depends on the cis people acting like their own life is at stake.

Arkansas transgender law makes it the worst state in the US for transgender children

So here’s what I’m going to tell you: they are. If you are a parent, any of these children could be your child. Any caring parent of a trans child feels extremely deep dread right now. There is nothing more painful on this planet than losing a child and nothing that scares a good parent more than believing that someone is going to hurt your child because you were not able to protect them. Even if your child is not injured or killed, someone else’s will be. But you can go in there and fight for them, rather than having them carry on on their own.

Anyone who survives to adulthood incurs some obligation to children, especially those of us whose own childhood was not ideal. If you’ve suffered from the lack of a safe adult, you know exactly why you need to be that safe adult now. Every child on this planet deserves someone who will speak up for them and defend them from bullying, whether that bullying is from a peer or a parent or from the great state of Arkansas.

There are so many adults in this country who want to harm trans children. Sometimes it seems like the fanatics outnumber the allies, but I have to believe they’re just more visible than us right now. We must be strong enough to drown them; we have to be seen, in large numbers, every time one of these bills is introduced. It all depends on our anger. All the protection these children receive will come because we refused to calm down or look away.

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