Busting Myths About Gender-Affirming Medical Care

Much of the furor about trans health care isn’t grounded in reality. Rather, it’s propped up by cherry-picked studies, fringe “experts” and a handful of political operatives.

Like any parent, I’ve spent a lot of time at the doctor’s office over the years. From routine well-baby visits and annual exams to urgent-care situations, I know my way around the clinic. My wife and I have had many questions and great conversations with our doctors regarding the best care for our kiddos. 

But you know who’s never been a part of these conversation? Our legislators. 

Medical decisions should be made between patients, their parents and their doctors – not politicians. 

But across the country and right here in Wyoming, lawmakers have been sticking their noses into matters they shouldn’t – specifically heath care decisions that have been traditionally reserved for parents. 

The ACLU of Wyoming opposes Senate File 99, legislation that would prohibit doctors from providing life-saving gender-affirming care to transgender youth in Wyoming.

Like all health care, health care for transgender youth is individualized and based on the needs of each particular person. But the discriminatory rhetoric coming from people who want to ban this care aren't considering that. Rather, much of the furor about trans health care isn’t grounded in reality. It’s propped up by cherry-picked studies, fringe “experts,” a handful of political operatives from outside of Wyoming, and fearmongering. 

Let’s cut through the conspiracy theories and get to the facts about the care that transgender youth receive in Wyoming.

Being transgender isn’t “catching.”

Proponents of anti-trans bills claim a rise in the number of youth who identify as transgender is evidence of a “social contagion.” In other words, they think that kids are suddenly identifying as trans to be cool. 

The reality is that increasing acceptance of gender differences makes it safer for young people to be open. There aren’t suddenly more trans people, there are just more trans people who feel comfortable being themselves. More trans people is not a bad thing. Transgender Wyomingites are part of the fabric of our society and deserve to be welcomed.

Surgeries on the genitals of minors aren’t being performed in Wyoming.

Proponents of anti-trans bills use loaded terms such as “child genital mutilation,” completely ignoring the undisputed fact that no surgery center anywhere in the state performs such surgeries on minors, and that such surgeries are not recommended by the standards of care followed by doctors. 

This language is chosen to shock the public and demonize people who provide care for trans youth. In fact, for very young children, there is no medical intervention. Affirming care for pre-pubescent kids means working with mental health professionals and allowing freedom to express themselves as they come to terms with their gender. 

Care isn’t handed out casually.

To listen to anti-LGBTQ+ extremists, you’d think this care was handed out without question. That couldn’t be further from the truth. These are difficult decisions that are made carefully and collaboratively by doctors, mental health professionals, parents, and their kids. No clinic in Wyoming is passing out drugs to children without parental consent, and no evidence supports this misleading claim.

Puberty blockers aren’t experimental.

As puberty approaches, trans youth may be offered puberty blockers. These are reversible drugs that delay the onset of puberty and have been widely used, for many reasons, for decades. These drugs aren’t dangerous and are by no means “experimental.”

Ban proponents say trans youth are too young to decide to make this decision. The cruel irony is that these treatments exist to give teens the space and time to decide for themselves whether they want to pursue further treatment as adults.

Regrets related to gender-affirming care are extremely low.

The fear mongering may cause some to ask, “these are kids, after all. What if they change their mind?” But this framing misunderstands the reality of what it is to be transgender. A diagnosis of medically significant gender dysphoria requires evidence that a young person’s expressed gender is “persistent, consistent and insistent.”

The claim that there is a very high “desistence” rate among youth, otherwise described as youth “changing their mind,” is false. A 2023 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, confirms the existing scientific and medical consensus that the rate of desistance is small and outweighed by the benefits of treatment. 

Real Wyoming families are harmed by this and other anti-LGBTQ2s+ proposals.

Here in Wyoming, parents and youth – as well as doctors who treat them – have spoken clearly. Affirming care is safe and necessary for some youth.

By continuing to scapegoat this small but vulnerable group, anti-LGBTQ+ politicians put Wyoming children directly at risk. At risk of being denied potentially lifesaving treatment. At risk of being bullied at school and demonized in their communities. Even at risk of having to flee their homes to continue treatment. Trans kids and their families deserve dignity and respect.

A version of the column also appeared in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle