Is Arkansas right to ban gender-transition surgery for minors statewide?
- Gender transition surgery, or sex reassignment surgery, is the medical process that changes “individuals with gender dysphoria to their desired gender.” Counseling and hormone therapy are the first steps to switching gender. Some physicians require their patients to take a year to live as their preferred gender before starting the process.
- On Tuesday, April 7, Arkansas became the first state to ban gender treatments (hormone treatment, puberty blockers, and surgery) for minors after Gov. Hutchinson originally vetoed the bill.
- According to Williams Institute, 0.7% of youth between the ages of 13 and 17 identify as transgender. That same age group has the highest alleged percentage of individuals who identify as transgender.
- The Trevor Project 2020 reported that 60% of trans and nonbinary youth participated in self harm and over half considered suicide. Individuals under 18 who went through conversion therapy attempted suicide at “more than twice the rate” than those who did not.
- Minors are subject to restrictive laws to protect their well-being. The legal drinking age in the US is 21. Most minors are restricted from getting tattoos, or at least require parental presence during the procedure. The minimum age of employment ranges between 14-years-old and 16-years-old.
The Arkansas law banning treatment and surgery for transgender minors shows that despite major advances in understanding and compassion for trans people, many still do not understand their struggles. Many who oppose allowing minors treatments claim that minors may not have given enough consideration or may regret it later. This argument flies in the face of the genuine struggles these individuals face. To suggest they may be simply curious or experimenting is to deny a fundamental part of their experience.
Similar to abortion, when legal options are taken away, those looking to have procedures done will look elsewhere. While this might mean individuals simply need to cross state lines, somebody may use shady, underground options in extreme cases, potentially causing great harm. This could be a serious situation for those currently in the middle of the process, often taking over a year.
Surprisingly, the Republican-led legislature in Arkansas has voted so overwhelmingly to take away a personal choice. Gender transition is an intensely personal subject, one that the government should have no role in deciding. This incredibly difficult and brave decision should be made only through open and supportive conversations between the minors, parents, and doctors.
The real reason why banning treatment and surgery for transgender minors is wrong is that it seeks to deny these people's existence. By allowing a blanket ban, the Arkansas legislature is undoing much of the progress toward equality for trans people and simply choosing not to deal with them. Trans individuals are people and should be treated with dignity and respect, not banned statewide.
Arkansas set an excellent example for the rest of the nation in banning gender-transition surgery for minors under the Save Adolescents From Experimentation (SAFE) Act. Gender reassignment surgeries require “irreversible, invasive” procedures that are too extreme for minors to undergo. The fact that it is currently allowed in the remaining 49 states is simply immoral.
Children and teens under 18 are too young developmentally to make such a life-altering decision. If individuals desiring to change genders (which is a scientific impossibility) still wish to do so once they are legal adults, the treatments will still be available later.
As Robin Lundstrum, who sponsored the bill, said, “They need to get to be 18 before they make those decisions.” This is an imperative point considering that the legal age to consent to sex is 18, along with other age restrictions surrounding personal choices such as voting, drinking, and smoking. Simply allowing adolescents to obtain gender reassignment surgeries ignores potential “long-term implications” and does not solve underlying issues, as individuals who identify as transgender suffer from gender dysphoria, a mental illness.
While there has already been opposition to the bill, it is worth mentioning that the number of people this would realistically effect is incredibly small, as the American Psychiatric Association determined that gender dysphoria only occurs in up to .014% of men and .003% of women.
Addressing the concern of “government overreach,” if an individual and his or her family still wish to pursue gender-transition surgery, they can simply receive treatment elsewhere or move to another state. Just like abortion access and gun control vary, this issue is just another right reserved for individual states to determine.