How Utah’s new ban on gender-affirming care for minors is affecting trans teens in the state
Editor Notes

Recently, several state legislatures have either introduced or passed legislation to ban gender-affirming care for transgender youth. Gender-affirming care can include medical, surgical, mental health, and non-medical services for transgender and nonbinary people. This care is important to the health and well-being of transgender and nonbinary youth, and it is shown to reduce depression and suicide among transgender youth. Gender-affirming care is supported by major medical organizations in the United States, such as the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics. 

In late January, Utah passed a law that prohibits people under the age of 18 from getting a range of gender-affirming care, such as puberty blockers and gender-affirming surgeries. The ACLU of Utah and the National Center for Lesbian Rights are planning to challenge the law.

In a recent story in PBS Newshour, advocates for gender-affirming care discuss how Utah’s new ban on gender-affirming care for minors is affecting transgender teens in the state. 

Marisa McPeck-Stringham, a mental health therapist in Layton, Utah worries about the effects of the ban on her transgender youth clients. “Six of her clients, all transgender teenagers, said they were experiencing suicidal ideation caused by the state moving forward with a bill to ban gender-affirming care for minors.” She says, “The legislation made her young trans clients feel under attack, regardless of whether they planned to medically transition.”  

McPeck-Stringham is concerned that her young clients may act on these suicidal thoughts and worries whether the “local resources she can direct them to will be trans-affirming and safe, especially in situations involving hospitalizations.”

These bans have serious effects on transgender and nonbinary youth by intensifying the prejudice, discrimination, and stigma they face everyday. Denying gender-affirming care can lead to negative impacts, such as depression, social isolation, and suicidal behavior. Because of these effects, advocates for gender-affirming care are supporting transgender youth and fighting for their access to care.

Marisa McPeck-Stringham, a mental health therapist in Layton, Utah, watched an unsettling pattern unfold last week: Six of her clients, all transgender teenagers, said they were experiencing suicidal ideation caused by the state moving forward with a bill to ban gender-affirming care for minors.

The legislation made her young trans clients feel under attack, regardless of whether they planned to medically transition, she said. Some of her cisgender queer clients have also said they are stressed and anxious about the bill. McPeck-Stringham’s clinical director at the Wiconi Counseling Center — a rare trans-affirming mental health space in Utah’s Davis County — told her that three of her own trans teen clients last week expressed increased levels of suicidal ideation due to Utah’s new bill.

Then, over the weekend, it became law.

“Who knows what I’ll see this week?” McPeck-Stringham said. She worries about her young trans clients acting on these...

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