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Anti-Trans Laws Are Hurting My Grandson's Mental Health

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Recently my African American, 12-year-old grandson started a psychiatric outpatient partial hospitalization program. He is a smart, funny, loving big brother and he also happens to be trans.

It pains me as a grandmother to see him struggling to find solace within himself, his family and community. He is in the hospital now because of self-harm and suicidal ideation.

The program he is enrolled in is supposed to help him with his thoughts about himself and how to come to terms with being trans. He says the hospital is really supportive, but it can be hard to open up.

Gender-affirming care includes holistically and respectfully attending to transgender people’s needs by affirming their gender identity physical, mental and social health. They may need and choose hormones, surgery or puberty blockers to be more comfortable in their bodies and relate to them.

Our home state considered a bill that would end gender affirming care for youth in this past legislative session. Luckily, it did not pass — but there is always next year.

I shudder to think if we were in Arkansas right now. The new law that restricts healthcare for trans minors would directly impact my grandchild. He would not get the gender-affirming care he needs to heal and to live through this part of his life. The National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health 2020 says more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth have seriously considered suicide in the past 12 months.

When I told my grandson what was happening in our state and others he said, “That is just wrong. If that happened to me, I would be very upset that people would not let us act how we want with changing our gender.”

Conservatives in North Carolina want to block trans youth from accessing gender affirming medical care until age 21, even with parental consent. They want to compel state employees (teachers, professors, social workers, etc.) to notify parents of “suspected gender nonconformity,” effectively outing youth living in, and financially tied to, un-affirming homes.

In states like Florida, it’s so much worse. They want to allow school officials to perform “genital checks” on trans children.

At a news conference, Dr. Lee Savio Beers, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said, “The AAP recommends that youth who identify as transgender have access to comprehensive gender-affirming and developmentally appropriate health care provided in a safe and inclusive clinical space.”

The bills that are advancing through the country ignore and undermine this recommendation.

My grandson is a boy who just wants to live his life unbothered. He has done nothing wrong with coming out and he has an incredibly supportive family. But he is caught in a country that works to demoralize him and openly harm him.

My grandson said, “It will keep me safer if people know how this impacts me.” He wants society to know that he is as normal as anyone else and wants to life his life judgment-free.

As a grandmother, I feel powerless to make a difference and to protect him from society and all its ugliness. I am sorry to live in a country that cannot seem to let people just exist without trying to control them and make them in their own image. As a grandmother, I will always stand up for my grandson and many others. All I can do is express how much I love and support him and work to get him access to the supports he needs to grow up to be a healthy and grounded man.

Key Support Organizations:

  • PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays): Support, education and advocacy for families, allies and LGBTQ individuals. Organizes local support groups for families and LGBTQ youth and has extensive reference and information pages online.
  • It Gets Better: Videos and resources aimed at offering hope to young LGBTQ people that “it gets better.” Can be helpful for parents for insights and understanding their child’s experience.
  • GenderCool Project: The GenderCool Project is a national storytelling campaign spotlighting remarkable stories of transgender young people.
  • Gender Spectrum Information, resources and support groups for parents and their transgender children.
  • National Center for Transgender Equality: An advocacy project working to change laws and legislation, this site also has helpful information about transgender people and some excellent self-help guides.
  • Straight for Equality: Outreach and education project created in 2007 by PFLAG. National to empower new straight allies who, unlike a more traditional PFLAG member, don’t necessarily have a family connection to the gay community.
  • Rainbow Families: Rainbow Families supports, educates and connects LGBTQ families, parents and prospective parents before, during and after birth or adoption. They provide information and planning resources through educational programs, advocacy, social events and discussion forums.

Getty image via nito100

Originally published: May 12, 2021
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