The Children's Hospital, OU Physicians Building, and Atrium.  - PROVIDED BY ASSOCIATED MILES

Data should guide Oklahoma’s health care policies for trans youth

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.

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