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The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

New Act in Alabama Targets Transgender Youth and Punishes Doctors

An Alabama state representative, Neil Rafferty, speaking in support of transgender rights during a rally outside the statehouse in Montgomery (Courtesy of Jake Crandal via Associated Press)

Under a new law in Alabama, which is currently passing through to the House of Representatives, transgender individuals under the age of 19 cannot be treated with hormonal therapy or sex transition surgery. This law, called the Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act, makes such procedures felony offenses. Alabama Senators voted on a 23-4 split to approve it and the law will be sent to the state’s House of Representatives for final approval.

With the two bills in place, it would become a felony for medical professionals to use the empirically and medically proven way to treat transgender people under the age of 19. Violators could face either up to 10 years in prison or a $15,000 fine. The bill also requires teachers to inform the parents of a transgender child about their identity, regardless of whether the child consents. Medical policy regarding gender dysphoria should not be decided by lawmakers, particularly those who have moral issues opposing the individuals they are legislating. 

The false idea being proposed is that the bill will ultimately help transgender teens, and have a positive impact on them, despite there being overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Limiting the ability of individuals with gender dysphoria to seke medically accurate help leads to higher depression and suicidality among those demographics, according to a 2015 Yale study

The idea that transgender people cannot safely transition to the gender identity they identify with is demonstrably false, as is outlined in a 2016 report from the American College of Osteopathic Pediatricians on how to best treat transgender youth. The study concluded that “reparative therapy”, the act of trying to pressure youth with feelings of dysphoria to be comfortable in their birth-given identity is ineffective and has no scientific backing. 

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Additionally, the American Psychoanalytic Organization, UK’s National Health Service, and American Psychological Organization have affirmed that being transgender is valid and that transition is the best way to alleviate discomfort and stress that stems from gender dysphoria. 

Around 80 percent of transgender people’s symptoms of dysphoria and physiological issues significantly improved after gender reassignment surgery, according to a long term study from Dr. Hassan Murad of the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine. Moreover, a cooperative Cornell June 2017 meta analysis of transgender studies found that of the 56 analysed studies, 52 of them showed positive results for transgender people after surgery, and 4 studies showed mixed or no results in either favor. Out of all the case studies, no study found that transition had a negative impact on the individual.

The senators who are deciding legislation that is closely tied to the wellbeing of transgender youth are not respecting the medical consensus, but rather making decisions from the visceral reactionary belief that being transgender is degenerate and wrong. 

“We must protect vulnerable minors who do not have the mental capacity to make life-altering decisions of this caliber,” said State senator Shay Shellnut, the sponsor of the bill.

“Children aren’t mature enough to make these decisions on surgeries and drugs,” said Senator Shelnutt, another sponsor of the bill. “The whole point is to protect kids.” 

However, not allowing doctors to use the widely accepted treatments for transgender teens is what really hurts children. Legislating a group based on a fictional idea about gender identity and maturity is not the medically proven way to treat transgender teens. 

Clearly, the denial to treat and help transgender people comes from a dated notion that transgender people are better off when they are forced into the gender they were assigned at birth, rather than accepted as how they identify. The senators’ alleged desire to protect the transgender teens stems from a false belief about what is best for transgender teens, juxtaposed with the medical consensus on the issue. 

In comparison to Alabama, D.C. lawmakers have enabled medical professionals to properly treat individuals with gender dysphoria, no matter their age. This legislation allows doctors to adequately treat transgender teenagers, and allows them to express who they really are through their preferred gender identity, ultimately lowering transgender suicide rates.

The American Civil Liberties Union has already challenged the law, and it’s not clear in how long it will be in place, but the law serves as a painful reminder of the conservative outlook on transgender people. While the bill is currently being passed, its doing immeasurable and irreversible harms to the transgender community.

By Fede Opertti

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