Treatment ban creates uncertainty for trans youth, families – WSVN 7News | Miami News, Weather, Sports

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) – Before Dylan Brandt started hormone therapy eight months ago, he felt insecure and out of place. Then the 15-year-old transgender boy started taking testosterone in August.

His mood improved, and his mother said he was more sociable.

But in the months ahead, Dylan and his family face a tough choice. His home state of Arkansas passed a law banning gender-based treatment for minors. This was the first state to do this.

“The thought of going back to my previous state is just devastating because that would set me back on anything,” said Dylan, who lives in Greenwood, near the Oklahoma border. “I do not want to go back.”

Unless the opponents manage to block a lawsuit, the Arkansas ban will come into effect at the end of the summer. The measure prohibits doctors from offering sex-affirming hormone therapy, puberty blockers, or surgery to anyone under the age of 18, or referring them to other doctors who offer this treatment.

It has already created confusion, sadness, and pain for hundreds of transgender youth, their families and health care providers. With other states considering similar bans, this is a preview of the tough choices other families across the country might face.

“My families are panicking and wondering what condition to move to. Your child is at risk of killing itself,” said Dr. Michele Hutchison, who runs a clinic at Arkansas Children’s Hospital that has cared for about 200 families and has a waiting list of several dozen more. “They want to know what to do next and we don’t have a straight answer for them.”

The Hutchison Clinic is by far the largest provider of hormone therapy and other medical assistance to transgender youth in the state. Gender-confirming surgery is not performed on minors in Arkansas.

Since the law was passed, four young people in Hutchison’s program have attempted suicide, she said. Other patients have called the clinic to ask if they can get their drugs on the black market when the ban goes into effect.

“My fear is that this will happen,” she said. “They will find a way to get them, and it will be dangerous because they are not monitored for side effects.”

These concerns prompted Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson, a socially conservative person who has signed other measures to restrict the rights of transgender people, to veto the treatment ban. Hutchinson said the bill went too far, especially since it wouldn’t exclude teenagers who are already being cared for.

“If this law is passed, what will happen to the young people currently receiving treatment?” Hutchinson told reporters when he vetoed the measure. “It hurts my heart to think about it.”

Republican majority legislation has slightly overridden Hutchinson’s veto, and proponents of the ban have said transgender youth should wait until they are 18 to make such decisions. Some compared the ban with that of other minors, for example on smoking or drinking.

“We’ve all done some things we probably shouldn’t have done when we were under 18, and the Arkansas children deserve to be protected,” Republican Rep. Robin Lundstrum, who instituted the ban, said during one Debate in the House of Representatives last month.

However, comments like these, say families of trans teenagers and health professionals, leave the false impression that these treatments are available in the short term and with little thought.

Before they can even begin treatment, transgender teenagers must go through months, if not years, of counseling and therapy to ensure they are making the right decision. You will also work in the laboratory beforehand and will be regularly monitored by doctors.

“This is not done lightly for the patient or the parents,” said Dr. Stephanie Ho, a doctor from Fayetteville who provides hormone therapy to about 10 to 15 trans teenagers. “This is not taken lightly on the supplier side.”

Several medical groups, including the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, oppose the bans, and experts say the treatments are safe when administered properly.

Puberty blockers, which delay the physical changes caused by puberty, are considered reversible. Hormone therapy that can help transgender people align their bodies with their gender identity may have more permanent results, such as: B. Allowing transgender men facial hair and a deeper voice.

For Andrew Bostad, it was two years after he came out transgender before he started hormone therapy. The 15-year-old, who lives in bauxite in central Arkansas, described his life prior to the treatments as if he were living in a cloud that was suffocating him.

“I used to be very switched off and angry with the world in general. I was just cut off from everyone, ”said Bostad. “When I started on testosterone, I could live my life and just get on with what I was meant to be all of my young adult life.”

The uncertainty that transgender youth are currently facing is compounded by the other Arkansas trans group restrictions enacted this year and the ongoing legislative process.

A Hutchinson law has signed bans on transgender girls and women from sports teams that match their gender identity. Another allows doctors to refuse to treat someone on the basis of moral and religious objections.

Arkansas lawmakers are considering a “bathroom bill” to prevent transgender people from using public toilets that match their gender identity. Another bill would allow teachers to use the former names and genders of transgender students, which, according to opponents, takes away their identities and could increase an already high risk of bullying of transgender youth. Legislators are also trying to extend the treatment ban to criminal penalties for doctors who violate it.

Treatment bans similar to those in Arkansas have been proposed in at least 20 states. Some of the measures failed but were approved in the Montana House of Representatives and the Alabama Senate. Several bills are pending in Texas, including one that will effectively classify the targeted treatments as child abuse and expose parents to criminal charges.

Other states are also considering bans on transgender athletes similar to those in Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee so far this year. Another ban was sent to the governor of North Dakota last week.

For many families, the cost of uprooting Arkansas is too high. However, it will also be expensive to stay regularly for doctor’s appointments and prescriptions, and to travel across state borders. This includes navigating a patchwork quilt of surrounding states that are also considering treatment bans.

“You basically kick these people when they’re down,” said Ho. “They have very few resources at first, and now you’re going to make them choose between renting and their child’s life.”

Dylan’s mother, Joanna, said stopping his treatments was not a viable option. Although she hopes the law won’t go into effect, she is already looking into the possibility of moving.

Bostad and his mother say they are looking for other sources for the treatments outside of Arkansas and say they cannot afford to go. But even if they could, despite the ban and other restrictions, they are determined to stay in Arkansas.

“We can’t let them get what they want,” said Brandi Evans, Andrew’s mother. “I’ve always been the person who stood up to the bullies, and this is a big deal, so I refuse to go down without a fight.”

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