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Arkansas Passes Anti-Trans Bill Banning Gender-Affirming Healthcare for Trans Youth

28 states are currently debating anti-trans legislation helmed by Republicans.

At a protest for transgender rights, a person holds a sign reading "Protect trans kids"

Across the country, Republicans are doubling down on transphobia with dozens of state-level bills targeting the basic rights of the transgender and nonbinary community. The latest to pass is an Arkansas bill, the Arkansas Save Adolescents from Experimentation, or SAFE Act, that bans access to gender-affirming care for transgender minors, including reversible puberty blockers and hormones. Chase Strangio, deputy director for transgender justice at the American Civil Liberties Union LGBT & HIV Project, called the bill “the single most extreme anti-trans law to ever pass through a state legislature.”

The bill, which was signed into law by Gov. Asa Hutchinson, is one of many that target trans youth, a population already vulnerable to violence, denial, and distress. And much like the anti-trans “bathroom bills” from a few years ago, these bills are spreading throughout Republican-led states with a frightening speed. “This has been a significant part of my work at the ACLU for the past six years and I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Strangio. “There have never been this many bills targeting trans youth voted out of committee and then making it to the floor.”

Similar bills that ban or restrict trans youth healthcare are appearing in multiple states, as are bills that ban trans girls from playing on sports teams that align with their gender identity. These sports bills have already been passed in Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee and are on the docket in several more states. Another trans sports ban failed in South Dakota, where the legislature and Gov. Kristi Noem failed to agree on the specifics of the bill.

UPDATE (4:15 PM EST): South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem just banned transgender girls and women from competing on women’s sports teams at public high schools and colleges via executive orders.

Last year, Idaho passed a bill banning trans girls’ participation in sports, but the bill was blocked in federal court. “The State has not identified a legitimate interest served by the Act that the preexisting rules in Idaho did not already address, other than an invalid interest of excluding transgender women and girls from women’s sports entirely, regardless of their physiological characteristics,” Judge David Nye wrote in August of 2020.

The bills are part of conservatives’ continued attacks on the LGBTQ+ community, and are deeply cruel and harmful to trans kids. They also address a “problem” that does not exist. These states have no record of student athletes complaining about trans teammates, and athletes are not “gaming the system” by playing as their authentic selves. These arguments are transphobia, plain and simple. And it’s deeply harmful and damaging to these children.

And the damage is already being felt. Arkansas pediatric endocrinologist Michele Hutchison testified before the state Senate last week, where she described “multiple kids in our emergency room because of an attempted suicide, just in the last week.”

Major medical groups, like the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the Endocrine Society and the American Psychiatric Association, have spoken out against these traumatic bills. 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 bill advancing through Arkansas Legislature not only ignores this recommendation but undermines it.”

“I really worry about the fact that we’re just a few votes away from some of the most sweeping and damaging and potentially genocidal laws from ever being passed, and we barely have a mention of it in the bigger national conversation of what’s going on in this particular moment in U.S. history,” Strangio said.

If you’re interested in supporting trans youth, you can donate to Arkansas-based support group Intransitive, the ACLU, and the Transgender Law Center.

(via CNN, NBC, featured image: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

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Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. She currently lives in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, son, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.