Gender-affirming care is not child abuse. So say experts from the nation’s leading organizations in the prevention and treatment of child abuse and neglect, including the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children and our nation’s oldest academic center in the field, the Kempe Center.
These are just two of numerous medical, legal, and child welfare organizations that recently offered their expertise to the Texas courts in Doe vs. Abbott, a lawsuit brought by a family challenging a directive by the Texas governor, Greg Abbott, ordering that state’s child welfare agency to investigate all families seeking gender-affirming care for their children and all doctors providing it.
The Texas Supreme Court recently sided with the family in Doe v. Abbott. The court made very clear that there was no legal basis for either the governor’s directive nor the attorney general opinion on which it was based.
Elsewhere in Texas, another court defended a doctor’s right to provide gender-affirming care, at least for now. And a federal court in Alabama granted an injunction barring enforcement of the provision of a new state law that bans medication therapies. In that opinion, the court made clear that its decision was informed by expert medical opinion, not political grandstanding.
At a time when political divisions and partisanship threaten to upend society, it is more important than ever to ensure that social policies are informed by research and evidence, not misinformation and hysteria, especially when it comes to children in their formative years. Thus, Yale faculty published a report refuting point-by-point the allegation that gender-affirming care is child abuse and the American Academy of Pediatrics filed an amicus brief in Texas explaining that gender-affirming care for youth is, in fact, life-saving medical care, supported by every major health care association in the United States.
When the research is examined, one learns that transgender identity is relatively common. Almost one in 150 Americans ages 13-17 are transgender, according to data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System . No wonder the American Medical Association advised U.S. governors that trans and non-binary gender identities are “normal variations of human identity and expression.”
It appears that transgender identities are not the issue, but rather their social and political rejection by some. The growing body of research shows that gender-diverse youth who are supported in their identity follow gender development profiles similar to cisgender youth. Indeed, research shows that transgender youth are relatively normal teenagers with similar levels of self-esteem and depression compared to cisgender youth when their identities are affirmed by their families, friends, and communities.
However, when transgender youth do not receive affirming love and care, they suffer. According to a survey just released by The Trevor Project, 94% of LGBTQ youth reported in 2022 that current political attacks were taking a toll on their mental health. Over half of America’s gender-diverse youth have seriously considered suicide in the past year. Having one affirming adult in their life cuts the risk of suicide by 30%.
If we as a society are truly committed to the prevention of child abuse, let’s stop using politics to attack kids and instead start trying to understand and accept them, shall we?
Warren Binford is professor of pediatrics, professor of law, and the W.H. Lea Endowed Chair for Justice in Pediatric Law, Policy & Ethics at the University of Colorado. Mary Kelly Persyn is a child advocate and attorney who chairs the Amicus Committee of the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children. These opinions are individually held and are not made on behalf of their respective institutions.