Dr. Natasha L. Poulopoulos
A fundamental aspect of human rights is equal access to health care, yet transgender and gender-diverse youth and their families are continually discriminated against through targeted political attacks.
Recently, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signed into law a measure barring one of the largest hospital systems in the state from receiving federal funds if it continues to provide gender-affirming care to transgender youth. Reportedly, OU Health Children’s Hospital will only be allowed to receive $108 million in ARPA funds – including nearly $40 million allocated to a pediatric mental health facility – if the children’s hospital stops providing gender-affirming care.
Children’s mental health has deteriorated dramatically over the past decade, with suicide being the second leading cause of death among young people in the context of a youth mental health crisis. LGBTQ+ youth, particularly transgender and gender diverse youth, experience significantly elevated rates of depression, anxiety, trauma, and suicidal tendencies. Some transgender and gender-diverse youth may also experience gender dysphoria – distress related to an incongruity between gender identity and sex assigned at birth. Rates of self-harm and suicide are much higher among young people with gender dysphoria. Research has shown that gender-affirming care is psychologically beneficial and, in many cases, life-saving for transgender youth. The denial and eradication of this care has major negative psychological consequences for young people and families, including unbearable suffering and death by suicide.
Gender affirmation clinics are staffed by medical, psychological and social experts dedicated to the well-being of children and adolescents. This care is highly patient and family friendly, ranging from no intervention to social interventions or potential medical interventions. All medical procedures for anyone under the age of 18 require parental consent and the assent of the child, and gender-affirming surgeries are rarely offered to those under 18. Several studies demonstrate improved mental health outcomes in youth, including reduced suicidal tendencies and improved life satisfaction, after receiving gender-affirming care (i.e., i.e. social transition, pubertal suppression and gender-affirming hormone therapy). Additionally, gender affirmation clinics diligently monitor patients with a specialized team of endocrinologists and psychologists to ensure the well-being of young people.
All major medical, pediatric and psychiatric associations driven by evidence-based research emphasize the importance of providing patients and families with access to gender-affirming care and clinics. Medical and psychological experts have voiced their opposition to recent legislative attempts to block gender-affirming care. The elimination of gender-affirming care and the suspension of funding for public hospitals, particularly to help address the mental health crisis of our young people, will exacerbate psychological distress among young people who are already at increased risk of mental health problems. Mental Health. Such actions by the governor of Oklahoma, which are in direct contradiction to improving youth outcomes and safety, have consequences for all young people and their families. I urge elected officials to start putting our youth first by leveraging expertise and data to guide policymaking.
Natasha L. Poulopoulos, Ph.D., is a pediatric psychologist in Miami, Florida.
#Data #guide #Oklahomas #health #care #policies #trans #youth