Utah Gov. Spencer Cox speaks at the Utah State Capitol, Friday, March 4, 2022, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo / Rick Bowmer)
Utah is the first state to pass a ban on gender-affirming care for trans youth in 2023—a year that has already been marked by an onslaught of proposed anti-trans bills across the country. On Saturday, Republican Gov. Spencer Cox signed the bill, banning gender-affirming surgery for transgender youth, as well as hormone therapy for minors who are yet to be diagnosed with gender dysphoria.
Cox had previously vetoed a ban on sports participation for transgender students in Utah, citing high suicide rates. (The Utah legislature overrode his veto.) “More and more experts, states and countries around the world are pausing these permanent and life-altering treatments for new patients until more and better research can help determine the long-term consequences,” said Cox in a statement after signing S.B. 16 into law. “While we understand our words will be of little comfort to those who disagree with us, we sincerely hope that we can treat our transgender families with more love and respect as we work to better understand the science and consequences behind these procedures.” Lawmakers in at least 18 states are considering similar measures, with those passed in Alabama and Arkansas currently held up by legal battles. Do you live in a state with anti-trans legislation and want to speak about your experience? Reach out to Anya Zoledziowski at email@example.com or DM her on Twitter (@anyazoledz) for Signal.
“This law effectively bans access to life-saving medical care for transgender youth in Utah,” said Brittney Nystrom, Executive Director of the ACLU of Utah, in a statement. “It undermines the health and well-being of adolescents, limits the options of doctors, patients, and parents, and violates the constitutional rights of these families.”Major medical governing bodies, including the American Medical Association, American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, have endorsed gender-affirming care for youth. Studies show that trans people are more likely to experience mental health struggles, including anxiety, depression, PTSD, and thoughts of suicide, than cisgender people. Nearly half of all LGBTQ youth have seriously considered suicide. But, experts say, some of these issues can be mitigated with puberty blockers and other gender-affirming therapies, which are safe and effective, and are correlated with better mental health outcomes for trans people. Teens who are able to access gender-affirming therapy typically also have better mental health outcomes than trans people who have to wait until adulthood.In 2022, more than 171 anti-trans bills—and more than 300 anti-LGBTQ bills—were introduced in at least 33 states across the U.S., including Oklahoma, Florida, Alaska, Arizona, Utah, Georgia, and Wisconsin. Experts say they expect 2023 to be just as bad, if not worse. “It is already shaping up to be another cruel and record-breaking year,” stated the Trans Legislation Tracker, an open-source site that tracks proposed and passed anti-trans legislation. This year, about 150 anti-trans bills, including the first bill in Oklahoma that would ban gender-affirming care for some adults, have been introduced in state legislatures. At least three states—Oklahoma, South Carolina and Virginia—have introduced such measures, with Oklahoma proposing a ban on gender-affirming care for people under the age of 26. Follow Anya Zoledziowski on Twitter.