The data speaks for itself: gender-affirming care saves lives, and denying youth access has dire consequences.
Gender-affirming care has been restricted in 20 states for those under the age of 18 and is currently being challenged in an additional seven, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
“State lawmakers and governors have enormous power to lower the suicide risk for some of their most vulnerable constituents,” said Yana Rodgers, a professor at the School of Management and Labor Relations and a co-author of the report. “Unfortunately, many states are raising the risk by choosing ideology over evidence.”
The study found that legislation is having a severe impact on the mental health of trans youth. 39 percent of respondents said losing access to gender-affirming care will damage their well-being, with 31 percent saying they feel "anxious, depressed, and stressed-out" seeing news of anti-trans legislation.
Though it isn't just mental health that has been impacted — these bans are also putting trans youth at risk of physical harm. Twenty-two percent of respondents said they’ve experienced more discrimination and harassment from family members and strangers alike. Fifteen percent said that they now hesitate to seek any form of medical treatment out of fear of discrimination from health care practitioners.
The report notes that there are over 300,000 transgender youth in the United States currently. HRC data reveals that over 44 percent live in states where they have lost access to, or are at risk of losing access to, gender-affirming care.
Those who said that legislation is not impacting them personally mostly said so because they already lack access to gender-affirming care, through barriers such as affordability and fear of coming out to their families. Still, even when living in states where care remains accessible, trans youth report feeling concerned and stressed around other states banning it.
“The indirect harm of this legislation is insidious,” said Lindsay Dhanani, an assistant professor in the School of Management and Labor Relations and co-author of the report. “Seeing these stories on the news, seeing them pop up on social media, can have a chilling effect on someone who’s already struggling with gender dysphoria and other challenges. It’s an affront to their sense of self.”
Recently, a study out of the University of Massachusetts Amherst found that gender-affirming care helps transgender kids' mental health. A research team found that initiation of hormone replacement therapy is associated with a 14.4 percent decrease in the risk of ever attempting suicide if treatment started between the ages of 14 and 17. This benefit was largest when HRT was started at age 14 or 15.
The study, “Hormone Therapy, Suicidal Risk, and Transgender Youth in the United States,” appeared in the May issue of AEA Papers and Proceedings, a publication of the American Economic Association. It uses data from the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, the largest survey of transgender people ever collected, composed of more than 27,700 respondents across the U.S.
“The science is showing us that gender-affirming care can save lives,” University of Massachusetts Amherst economist Duc Hien Nguyen, a co-author of the study, said in a UMass press release.
“In line with existing scientific evidence, our research clearly indicates that restricting transgender youth’s access to HRT could produce harmful, even deadly, consequences,” he added.
If you are having thoughts of suicide or are concerned that someone you know may be, resources are available to help. The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 is for people of all ages and identities. Trans Lifeline, designed for transgender or gender-nonconforming people, can be reached at (877) 565-8860. The lifeline also provides resources to help with other crises, such as domestic violence situations. The Trevor Project Lifeline, for LGBTQ+ youth (ages 24 and younger), can be reached at (866) 488-7386. Users can also access chat services at TheTrevorProject.org/Help or text START to 678678.