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Yet Another Study Shows Gender-Affirming Healthcare Improves Trans Kids’ Mental Health

Despite the deluge of proposed bans on gender-affirming healthcare for transgender youth, yet another academic study has proven the validity of this care.

A new report published in the New England Journal of Medicine has found that access to hormone therapy is linked to improved mental health among trans and nonbinary kids. As NBC News reported, it is part of a growing body of research establishing the link between gender-affirming care and better quality of life for trans youth.

The report, authored by a group of doctors from children’s hospitals throughout the United States, looked at 315 trans and nonbinary youths ages 12–20 years old who received gender-affirming hormone therapy (GAH) over the course of two years. They were surveyed at multiple points with questions designed to gauge their depression, anxiety, positive emotions, life satisfaction, and “appearance congruence” — in other words, how much they felt their external appearance aligned with their gender identity.

In general, participants said they experienced more positive emotions, life satisfaction, and appearance congruence while taking GAH. This in turn led to decreases in symptoms of depression and anxiety.

“In this two-year study involving transgender and nonbinary youth, GAH improved appearance congruence and psychosocial functioning,” researchers concluded.

These findings echo previous research on the topic. A JAMA study from February 2022 also found that access to gender-affirming healthcare significantly reduced the risk of depression, self-harm, or suicidal thoughts among trans youth.

Sounds pretty straightforward, right? Unfortunately, transphobic lawmakers have not gotten the memo. Over the past few years, anti-trans bills have been passed or introduced by Republicans in dozens of states throughout the U.S. Many of these legislative attacks are specifically targeting access to gender-affirming healthcare for trans minors. Some, including a particularly absurd bill from Oklahoma introduced earlier this month, even take aim at trans adults.

This year alone, lawmakers have introduced bills targeting gender-affirming healthcare in at least 19 states, per the ACLU’s legislative tracker. And it’s only January 23.

Transphobes generally put forth this legislation under the guise of “protecting” vulnerable children from making decisions about their bodies. The reality? Gender-affirming healthcare is safe, effective, and has the formal backing of literally every major medical association in the U.S. Banning it only causes undue stress for trans and nonbinary youth, who are already disproportionately more likely to experience bullying and suicidal ideation than their cisgender peers.

The Williams Institute, UCLA’s LGBTQ+ policy think-tank, estimates that there are 1.6 million trans people in the U.S. Nearly one-fifth of them (18 percent) are ages 13–17.

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