Georgia bans transgender healthcare for minors

Carson Bonner, Campus Carrier news editor

On March 16, the state Senate passed a bill that will partially ban transgender health care for minors in Georgia. The law will prohibit parents of minors from allowing their children to be prescribed gender-affirming hormones, puberty blockers or gender-affirming surgery. 

The bill was passed primarily by Republicans with 32 senators in favor and 22 opposed. According to a public statement from bill sponsor Republican Sen. Carden Summers, their goal is to also children to mature to an age where they will be capable of making a decision to transition genders that the lawmakers said will be irreversible. 

“We tried to be as liberal in our thoughts as possible to make sure this bill could work for literally, hopefully, everyone,” Summers said to House committee of Public Health. “But the bottom line of this bill is simply this: we designed this bill to make a pause for young people we’re going to do. I call it the Protect the Children Act. We don’t want anybody to have gender surgeries under the age of 18 years old. At 18 years old, whatever they decide to do is their business.” 

Since the bill was passed, there has been public and verbal backlash from transgender youth, Democrats, and mental health and medical professionals. Physicians and psychologists have called the law dangerous for youth experiencing gender dysphoria. 

According to the American Psychiatric Association, 

gender dysphoria is psychological distress that results from an incongruence between one’s sex assigned at birth and one’s gender identity. People who experience gender dysphoria often transition to the gender they feel they better identify with. Since this law has passed, minors experiencing gender dysphoria will be unable to seek gender-affirming medical care. 

“Gender dysphoria with no real outlet can be very harmful for youth, especially those who experience severe dysphoria,” Berry Director of Counseling Becca Smith said. “Feeling as though you completely hate the body you live in is so hard. When youth hit puberty and they feel more stuck in a body that doesn’t feel like theirs, it’s very mentally damaging and draining.” 

Minors who began gender-affirming care, specifically hormonal replacement therapy (HRT), before July 1, 2023 will be able to continue treatment, because there are health and psychological risks with suddenly stopping HRT, such as depression, anxiety, rapid hormonal fluctuation and seizures. According to Smith, if the feeling an individual experiences after becoming more comfortable in their body was suddenly taken away, only for them to have to return to the body that they feel they do not align with, this could be extremely psychologically damaging. 

“The hope is that minors with parents who would have allowed them to transition will also have parents that will provide mental health care that they may need as a result of their gender dysphoria,” Smith said. “Children who experience gender dysphoria often are also facing depression or anxiety and having a supportive network is so important, especially when gender-affirming healthcare isn’t available.” 

According to Smith, the fact that the law itself exists sends a negative message to youth who want to pursue gender- 

affirming care, in that it condemns the idea that youth could experience gender dysphoria and says that even if they can, that experience is not valid enough to warrant youth receiving the care that they need. 

“The law tells them that what they are and who they are is wrong,” Smith said. “That alone is enough to worsen their experience. The kids are already struggling and this law isn’t going to help them.” 

Organizations for queer youth have stepped up to provide mental health resources for struggling minors experiencing gender dysphoria with no clear solution. The highest concern is that the already marginalized group of transgender youth will feel even more isolated and that suicide rates will increase. The Trevor Project publicly condemned the passing of the law, releasing several statements on their website offering support to queer youth and listing the risks and concerns on behalf of youth affected. Resources for struggling youth can also be found on the websites for the Georgia Equality Organization, PFLAG Georgia, the Trans Housing Atlanta Program and on Transgender Map. 

For Berry students who are looking for an LGBTQIA+ safe space, Listen, a student-run club, provides a space for open expression and community with people who fall into LGBTQIA+ or allies. 

“We like to promote community and safety,” Club President Anthony Vitale said. “We want to have a place that encourages people to express themselves. It’s a great place for Berry students and people in the community to meet and feel safe together.” 

Listen meets every other Tuesday in the Intercultural Center and have an end of year bash coming up on April 15 in the Kilpatrick Commons at 9 p.m. 

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