Celebrate International Transgender Day of Visibility by protecting trans kids

A previous Brooklyn Liberation march and rally focused on trans youth.
A previous Brooklyn Liberation march and rally focused on trans youth.
Donna Aceto
On Wednesday, the Kentucky legislature overrode Governor Andy Beshear’s veto of an omnibus anti-transgender bill that requires doctors to deny gender-affirming care to youth, prohibits transgender schoolkids from using bathrooms consistent with their gender identity, and forbids any mention of sexuality or LGBTQ identity in class. In his veto message, Governor Beshear warned that the bill’s repercussions would include an increase in youth suicides.

The previous week, Iowa’s Governor, Kim Reynolds, was sent a similar pair of bills by the legislature restricting the bathrooms transgender students can use and banning gender-affirming medical care. Governor Reynolds, who met with transgender children and families prior to considering the legislation, said her “heart breaks.”

She signed the bills anyway.

The measures approved in Kentucky and Iowa are just part of a sweeping nationwide trend to roll back transgender rights, in particular transgender healthcare for kids. To date, 11 states have passed bans on gender-affirming care for children and nearly two dozen others are considering doing the same. A new bill in Florida goes even further, by allowing the state to remove children from homes where their parents are seeking this medical treatment for their kids.

Manhattan State Senator Brad Hoylman.Donna Aceto

The result? More than 58,000 young people are in jeopardy of having no access or could lose access gender-affirming care. Gender-affirming care is a years-long process of aligning an individual’s outward, physical traits with their gender identity; first through social affirmation like acknowledging someone’s new pronouns or name, and ultimately through medical treatment. Virtually every major physician’s group, including the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, endorses gender-affirming care, in large part because of its proven ability to reduce the incidence of suicide among transgender youth.  

Studies show that gender-affirming care reduces the risk a transgender young person will commit suicide by 73%. At the same time, 85% of transgender and non-binary youth report that anti-trans legislation and its associated rhetoric has negatively impacted their mental health. It should be no surprise, then, that nearly one-half of New York’s transgender and non-binary youth have contemplated suicide in the last year, with a fifth of them having made an attempt. 

Now that’s heartbreaking. 

As the home of Stonewall, the birthplace of the modern LGBTQ human rights movement, New York cannot sit by as this healthcare crisis unfolds for thousands of transgender kids and their families. Just as we did after dozens of state legislatures began restricting abortion care following the nullification of Roe, New York has a similar opportunity to welcome and protect patients and their families from the laws of other states where lifesaving gender-affirming healthcare has been criminalized. 

Our legislation, the Transgender Safe Haven Act (S2475A), which I carry with Assembly Member Harry Bronson, passed the Senate Judiciary Committee this week and would protect the rights of transgender youth and their families by:

  • Protecting New York State physicians who provide gender-affirming care from criminal prosecution in other states;
  • Explicitly ensuring New York parents will not be separated from their kids for aiding in their access to gender-affirming care;
  • Prohibiting law enforcement from cooperating with other states’ investigations regarding legal gender-affirming care; and
  • Protecting the health information of people who come to New York to receive gender affirming care.

On this International Transgender Day of Visibility, we should heed the words of its founder, transgender activist Rachel Crandall-Crocker, who said, “I wanted a day that we could celebrate the living. Where we could come all together, and be happy that we’re alive, and that we are trans.”

New York can honor the affirming spirit of this special day by passing the Transgender Safe Haven Act and helping celebrate and protect the lives of our transgender children, no matter what state they’re from.

Brad Hoylman-Sigal is the Chair of the New York State Senate Judiciary Committee.