On April 6th, Arkansas passed HB1570, a bill that bans doctors from providing gender-reaffirming treatment to transgender youth under the age of 18. The state became the first in the U.S. to pass such legislation.
While the governor of Arkansas, Asa Hutchinson, initially vetoed the bill, the state senate overturned his judgment, and Arkansas joined a troubling number of states to authorize anti-transgender laws. While these types of bills vary, most seek to restrict trans youth’s access to healthcare and youth sports. Ironically, Hutchinson signed a bill less than two weeks prior banning trans athletes from joining female sports teams.
I cannot stress enough the adverse effects these actions will have. In a testimony to Arkansas legislators, Dr. Michelle Hutchison, a pediatric endocrinologist at the Arkansas Children’s Hospital, stated, “I guarantee you if this bill passes, children will die,” vowing to call the state senators each time one does.
According to a national survey on LGBTQ youth mental health from The Trevor Project, 54% of transgender and gender-nonconforming youth considered suicide in 2019. 29% attempted suicide. Gender-reaffirming care, like hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and puberty blockers, plays a crucial role in improving these statistics. According to other studies cited by The Trevor Project, 30% of transgender youth experienced significant emotional problems before pubertal suppression, while only 11% experienced such emotions after two years of suppression treatment. HRT or gender-affirming hormone therapy plays a similar role in decreasing emotional and behavioral problems, as well as suicidality. Research cited by The Trevor Project found that after one year of treatment, the suicidality rate of transgender youth decreased by a fourth.
Luckily, New York has yet to pass any laws similar to those in Arkansas. However, this does not mean that transgender and gender-nonconforming people are protected within the state. In 2020, the U.S. saw 44 trans people murdered at the hands of transphobic aggressors. 75% of those killed were trans people of color.
We as a community need to recognize that we exist within a bubble, both due to the fact that a small number of trans and gender-nonconforming youth attend our school and that New York City presents itself as a welcoming space for all members of the LGBTQ+ community through its rich history of queer revolution and Democratic policies. We can stay comfortable in our liberalism and progressiveness while remaining stagnant, making few viable efforts to aid the trans community. We can wear the facade of support by believing that our anti-discrimination policies are enough. But due to the lack of desire to seek out trans visibility in our community, it is unlikely that we are providing any actual assistance.
While the school may admit and accept trans students, students and faculty could be making more of a commitment to uphold those students and the trans community as a whole. Using people’s correct pronouns is a good starting place, but doing that alone does not mean we can call ourselves trans allies.
We must consider: how are we, as students, using our wealth to support trans people in the city around us, notably Black trans sex workers who bear the brunt of discriminatory violence? Are we engaging with content about the trans community in a way that challenges our own biases? Do we question our immediate and innate responses to this type of content? Are we even listening to trans voices? Are we teaching students about trans people in the classroom? Sadly, in my experience, we are not.
Many of the answers to these questions take little to no work. There are hundreds of mutual aid accounts across the internet dedicated to the trans community that put resources like rental assistance and funds for gender-affirming surgery directly into the hands of those who need them. (Mutual aid is a form of community-based voluntary support that aims to meet the needs of individuals through monetary and other types of actions.) Keeping up to date with events that impact the trans community takes no more than five minutes each day. We must begin to discuss the deaths of and discrimination against trans people, both in our classrooms and amongst ourselves.
On May 25th, trans activist and ACLU laywer Chase Strangio, who won a Supreme Court case in June that ruled it is illegal for an employer to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or transgender identity, will talk at the school. I implore students and faculty alike to pay careful attention to his words and learn from his experiences. The school must continue to promote events that include trans speakers. We must use our privilege as cis people and as a community with mostly upper class families to increase our awareness of and support for those around us that identify as trans or gender-nonconforming.