But the procedures banned by this bill are neither radical nor experimental. Puberty blockers keep trans kids from suffering the permanent damage of adolescence in the wrong gender. They have been shown to lower the risk of suicidal thoughts, and it buys them time, should any be needed, to become more certain of the path they’re on. The effects of these medicines are reversible if treatment is suspended.
One Republican sponsor of the Arkansas bill told KATV that the bill “is giving kids a chance to grow up and then, if they make a different decision when they are older, that’s OK.” But by the time these kids are older, the effects of adolescence will have set in — breasts and periods for trans men, facial hair and deepening voices for trans women.
Treating trans kids isn’t the experiment here. The experiment is in making it impossible for these young people to become themselves.
In 2014, research published in the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics found, in a longitudinal study of 55 trans people who had received puberty suppression treatments during adolescence, that treatment radically improved patients’ lives. The study concluded that years later, after gender reassignment, their “well-being was similar to or better than same-age young adults from the general population,” giving them “the opportunity to develop into well-functioning young adults.”
Moreover, a different study published in the same journal last year found that kids who are treated when they’re younger face significantly lower risk of self-harm, depression and attempted suicide. In other words, it is not the care, but its absence, that puts these kids at risk.
Forgive me if I fail to be convinced that the spate of anti-trans bills is motivated by conservatives’ sincere concern for women’s athletics, a subtle understanding of endocrinology or even the well-being of the children themselves. Instead, these bills are a way for conservatives to perform their scorn for people who are different from themselves.
This kind of performance doesn’t make transgender people disappear, of course. All it does, in the end, is demonstrate a lack of generosity and imagination to understand a soul different from your own.