New proposed laws that would jeopardize the autonomy of transgender youth serve “to shame and shun an already stigmatized and often defenseless group of people,” wrote the managing editor of a leading Catholic publication.
Commenting on a raft of new anti-trans bills popping up in states across the U.S., Isabella Simon of Commonweal said that “Whether such proposals are motivated by ignorance or malice, it is clear that their practical effect would be to harm, not protect, children.”
Simon notes that proposed legislation in Alabama would prohibit gender-affirming medical care for youth. Florida already bans discussion of gender and sexuality in the classroom. In Tennessee, a new law would allow teachers to purposefully “misgender” students.
Simon points out that these laws target an already marginalized population:
“Transgender youth are among the most vulnerable people in society. They are disproportionately subject to bullying and abuse and are significantly more likely than their cisgender peers to attempt suicide and struggle with serious depression. Numerous studies have associated affirming children’s gender identities with improved mental health, and national surveys by the Trevor Project suggest that the best way to reduce the number of suicide attempts by LGBTQ youth is to provide a welcoming and accepting environment for them.”
Simon underlines the point that for transgender youth, “transitioning is not about surgery” but allowing one to “choose one’s own clothing, haircuts, and pronouns.” Puberty blockers, medicine to delay the onset of puberty, are also a way to reduce present and future gender dysphoria in youth. She cites the Pediatric Endocrine Society, which found that transgender youth who receive puberty blockers are 70 percent less likely to have suicidal thoughts, compared to those who did not.
Anti-trans lawmakers are misinformed about the physical and psychological aspects of transitioning. Worse yet, lawmakers’ rhetoric has prompted unnecessary fears. For example, some of them have promoted the myth “trans girls will prey on cisgender girls in school bathrooms” or pro-trans lawmakers are “groomers.” No evidence supports either of these accusations.
While the specifics of transitioning can be complicated, ultimately anti-trans laws are not the proper response, for Simon writes:
“[T]he people best poised to work through those physical and psychological complications are the children, families, doctors, and counselors involved. Sending doctors who provide this care to jail, with no provisions for children already taking medication, is not a solution.”
Simon’s forthright support of transgender youth is a significant contribution to the Catholic conversation about the LGBTQ+ community. She prioritizes the overall well-being of individuals–a very strong Catholic value.
—Sarah Cassidy (she/her), New Ways Ministry, August 9, 2022