The Value of Gender-Affirming Care
November 15, 2023
Have you heard of Transgender Awareness Week? The week leading up to the Transgender Day of Remembrance (November 20)—a day meant to honor trans lives lost to violence—it’s a time to raise visibility and awareness of transgender people as well as celebrate trans pride and advocacy.
Unfortunately, progress has been slow at times. One important area which has been under attack is gender-affirming care, which remains restricted or banned in parts of the U.S. When it comes to transgender awareness, knowing about gender-affirming care is a good start. For starters, it includes services that support teens both physically and emotionally in aligning with their gender identity.
In honor of Trans Awareness Week, I’ll be taking a look at why gender-affirming care is so important to trans folks.
So, What Is Gender-Affirming Care?
You may be asking, what exactly is gender-affirming care? Well, it spans a wide variety of medical and therapeutic services intended to support physical, mental and emotional health. The American Medical Association and American Psychological Association both support age-appropriate, evidence-based gender-affirming care, in consultation with professionals.
In essence, it helps transgender people—who identify as a different gender than the one they were assigned at birth—feel comfortable in their own skin. This can be crucial to their well-being. “Everyone deserves to feel comfortable when they look in the mirror,” says Ajay (she/her), 17, of Columbus, OH. “At the very least, everyone deserves to not hate the body they are in.”
Unfortunately, many of these treatments have come under fire in recent years, even being banned in much of the U.S. “Three in ten trans youth aged 13-17 live in states that have passed bans on gender-affirming care,” according to the Human Rights Campaign.
Fighting Gender Dysphoria
The negative effects of restricting gender-affirming care are significant. Trans teens often suffer from gender dysphoria—where there is a disconnect between their gender assigned at birth and what they feel is their true gender—to the extent that they may begin to experience depression, anxiety and thoughts of suicide.
Gender-affirming care is medical treatment, and denying anyone treatment based on their gender identity is a violation of their human rights. “Gender-affirming care can be the difference between life and death, especially for people who are from unsupportive households or families,” says Katie (she/her), 19, of Boston. “It’s imperative that trans youth have an outlet for relief.”
Essential for Me
Trans teens truly benefit from gender-affirming care, in different ways. “I received testosterone hormone therapy at 17, and had a bilateral mastectomy at 19,” says Matt (he/him), 19, of Buffalo, NY. Matt explains specifically how these interventions helped him. “Taking testosterone was essential for me to feel comfortable in my own skin, and also allowed me to finish my last year of high school without harassment from other students, since I passed as a cisgender man,” he says. “During the first two years of high school without it, I had only been able to socially transition, and really struggled. Top surgery made a huge difference in my confidence, and allowed me to not be limited by having to wear a binder every day. If I didn’t receive this care, I would not be here today, and would not have been able to succeed in any areas of my life that I thrive in today.”
These sentiments are echoed by other trans young people. “Gender-affirming care makes me feel like there’s hope for me in the world,” says Bina (she/they), 20, of Brooklyn, NY. “Without the care I have received, I doubt I would have made it past my teens. Medical intervention was vital in allowing me to build a life worth living.”
Be an Ally
Transgender Awareness Week is a time of reflection. We’ve made some progress in protecting the rights and freedoms of LGBTQ+ folks, but still have a long way to go, and gender-affirming care for transgender teens is essential.
How can you celebrate Trans Awareness Week? Even if you don’t identify as trans, be an ally. Support people you know who are going through or considering gender-affirming care, and continue educating yourself about the issues so you can stay informed. Spread awareness about what gender-affirming care really is, and don’t let misinformation hurt the people you care about.
Don’t just be aware, be an advocate!