Access to Affirming and Inclusive Transgender Healthcare Saves Lives
By: Tom Shanley MD, President & CEO, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago
Robert Garofalo MD, MPH, Division Head, The Potocsnak Family Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine on behalf of the Gender & Sex Development Program
Today we are proud to live and work in Illinois.
Less than a year ago, Illinoisans and our team at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago celebrated Governor Pritzker’s decision to require medical providers in our state to provide services without discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. However, in the ensuing months more than 30 bills in 19 states across the U.S. have been introduced prohibiting medical providers from delivering gender-affirming health to individuals under the age of 18; despite such care being deemed “best practice” by every mainstream medical professional organization including the American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics and American Psychological Association. Arkansas has actually enacted such a law. These bills threaten the health and well-being of children and families in Arkansas and beyond; they fundamentally are anti-science, anti-public health and perpetuate discrimination against transgender people.
Since its inception, the Lurie Children's Gender Development Program has proudly provided clinical care and clinical support services to over 2,000 transgender children, adolescents and their families. Lurie Children's strongly opposes any forms of discrimination in healthcare and expresses sadness and outrage at the decision of the Arkansas state legislature to enact HB 1570 into law.
The overwhelming predominance of scientific research confirms that being transgender is not a phase, nor is it an affectation; rather it is a natural expression of the human condition. Evidence suggests that discrimination, such as that perpetrated in Arkansas HB 1570, prevents youth from being their authentic selves and limits access to necessary healthcare services. The National Transgender Discrimination Report found that 19% of transgender people reported being denied healthcare with 50% of respondents having to teach their medical providers about transgender care. At a time when our nation faces unprecedented challenges from a global pandemic and social unrest, this law would enable new discrimination against transgender individuals and erode the tenant of healthcare as a basic human right.
Importantly, it is clear that gender affirming medical treatments are not experimental. These treatments are well-studied and well-supported by scores of scientific research conducted across the globe including here at Lurie Children’s and at other sites across the U.S. As we do with other forms of medical practice, transgender youth and families are counselled on the risk and benefits of all medical treatments based upon the best available scientific literature. The current wave of anti-trans legislation represents government overreach that interferes in decisions that should reside among patients, their parents and their providers.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends and works towards “all children and adolescents regardless of gender identity or expression receiving care to promote optimal physical, mental and social well-being. Any discrimination based upon gender identity or expression, real or perceived, is damaging to the social health of children, families and society.”
As it has done for the better part of the past decade, Lurie Children’s remains fully committed to providing the full-range of comprehensive medical and behavioral health services that transgender young people need and deserve.
Make no mistake, access to affirming and inclusive transgender healthcare saves lives.