Writer: Mariajose de Jesús Castillo Cervantes
Editor: Renata Daou
Graphic Designer: Ileana Cue
The right to health is a human right that all people around the world can and should exercise, regardless of ethnicity, gender, income, or sexual orientation. This right encompasses a wide range of aspects, from common illnesses, such as the flu, to chronic diseases, such as diabetes and even mental health.
For a long period of time, mental health was stigmatized as not being a serious problem, but over time, we have become more aware that problems such as depression and anxiety are very dangerous and must be prevented.
Everyone can suffer from mental health problems, but certain groups are more vulnerable to these conditions–among them are people from the LGBT+ community. Unfortunately, this group faces numerous obstacles that society and even the government impose on them, such as discrimination, bullying, and discrediting their realities. This last point is a problem largely associated with transgender people because there is still a lot of stigmatization of them. It is so common that in many cases, even the State seems to be against them, seen in the many anti-trans bills that different states in the U.S. have implemented against this group, recently prohibiting access to gender-affirming treatments which violate their mental health.
Gender affirmation care, a health care designed to assist individuals in defining, exploring, and actualizing their gender identity, allows individuals to explore their identities without judgments or assumptions. These treatments are highly specialized for each of the different needs of every individual requiring assistance in the gender affirmation process. It also helps families in the process to make it easier for the individuals fighting the stigma often imposed on the LGBT+ community. They focus on knowing the likes and needs of their patients to make changes they feel comfortable with. This may include choosing what they want to wear, what name they like to be called, their pronouns, and so on. All of this will help them feel identified in their own body and as their own person, and grant them access to spaces where they feel safe, such as being able to use the restrooms of their respective genders.
Gender reassignment treatment has many benefits, including protecting an individual's mental health and preventing illnesses such as depression. According to Columbia’s University Irving Medican Center it “greatly improves the mental health and overall well-being of gender diverse, transgender, and nonbinary (TGNB) children and adolescents.”
But what is currently happening in states like Texas? A new bill has been proposed, which, upon enactment, will prohibit doctors from treating transgender minors on gender affirmation. This means that they cannot prescribe puberty blockers or hormone injections, among other things. Doctors, teachers, and others will be required to report parents who want to help transgender children, and may be sanctioned by authorities.
The statement from the state of Texas is that “gender-affirming treatments for transgender youth constitute child abuse under state law.” But is this true? Is this affirmation by the state even legal? In an interview by Boston University, Linda McClain, a law professor and expert in civil rights and general law states that “It does not seem to be legal. As the complaint explains, the governor doesn’t get to declare what child abuse is in Texas—that has to come from the state legislature, who then may delegate a body or individual to write regulations. Therefore, the complaint says that Abbott’s directive violates the Administrative Procedure Act because it didn’t go through the proper channels of lawmaking.”
This brings us to our next point: misinformation by the State and people in power. Actions such as those taken by the Texas government based on false facts are highly dangerous because they disperse harmful and false information. It also opens spaces for other people to provide erroneous information on the subject. For example, information stating that gender reassignment treatments are experimental and that it is not known with certainty what is being done, has been circulating. But it is known that “providing transgender people with medical care in support of gender transitions stretches across the 20th century. Historians document that trans kids have found access to medical transitions for the past century.” It has been proven that members of the lgbt+ community suffer many mental health issues, such as depression. A study made by “The Trevor Project’s 2020 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, 54 percent of young people who identified as transgender or nonbinary reported having seriously considered suicide in the last year, and 29 percent have made an attempt to end their lives.” Other studies have also shown that when they’re given medical assistance, these percentages decrease.
This misinformation endangers the human rights of transgender people, especially the right to health, but it also violates the right to equality, non-discrimination, and free development of personality. It also violates the American Medical Association’s standard that political figures should never infringe on private care decisions designed to “nurture the child’s short and long-term development, and balance the need to preserve the child’s opportunity to make important life choices autonomously in the future.”
Access to these types of treatment would help reduce the danger of illnesses such as anxiety, depression, and suicide. According to The Trevor Project’s National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health in 2020, “54 percent of young people who identified as transgender or nonbinary reported having seriously considered suicide in the last year, and 29 percent have made an attempt to end their lives.”
Unfortunately, this case is not the first of its kind; transgender people have previously been restricted from joining sports groups and health care, among other things. The State's discrimination against this group puts them in a position of greater vulnerability and danger, because if the State does not protect them, then who will?
Prohibiting treatments that help transgender people freely exercise their rights puts their lives at risk. The State must guarantee, protect, and provide all the tools so that the entire population can have access to them. Creating laws that prohibit individuals from living in freedom is a crime against humanity, and we should do well to remember that human rights are not up for discussion.