Utah is the latest state to ban gender affirming healthcare for transgender and nonbinary youth, and advocates say it won’t be the last.
Late last week, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox signed state Senate Bill 16, which prohibits trans minors from receiving gender affirming hormone therapy or surgeries. The law went into effect immediately, meaning the vast majority of trans youth in the Beehive State are no longer able to access this vital care.
There are some exceptions for intersex individuals and trans youth who had already received this care for upwards of six months. Generally speaking, though, SB 16 will introduce new challenges for trans youth, who are already disproportionately impacted by bullying and mental health issues.
Gender affirming care is backed by virtually every major medical association in the United States, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association. A growing body of evidence — including a New England Journal of Medicine study published last month — suggests this care improves mental health outcomes for trans youth. Still, Gov. Cox insists SB 16 was passed to protect child and teens from “these permanent and life-altering treatments.”
As NBC News reported, the ACLU and National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) are expected to challenge this law.
Utah is now the fifth state to implement a law banning gender affirming healthcare, and the latest example of states attacking the rights of transgender Americans. Since 2021, hundreds of bills targeting trans people — including bans on gender affirming healthcare, school sports, or bathroom usage — have been introduced by Republican lawmakers in various states. This hostile legislation has left parents of trans youth across the country with many questions about how best to support their children.
In 2023 alone, transphobic state lawmakers have introduced at least 74 bills banning trans healthcare, according to the ACLU’s legislative tracker. And it’s only February 2.
Last month, a state senator in Oklahoma introduced a particularly absurd bill that would ban gender affirming care for trans youth and adults. Unfortunately, many transgender advocates believe we’ll soon see more bills of this scope.
“This won’t stop until they ban transition entirely,” journalist and activist Alejandra Caraballo tweeted in January. “They’ll just keep increasing the age. It was never about children.”
The Williams Institute, UCLA’s LGBTQ+ policy think-tank, estimates that there are 1.6 million trans people in the U.S. About 18 percent of them are ages 13–17.
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