As Daily Kos continues to cover, trans people—and especially, trans youth—are being attacked on all sides by Republicans. In some states, lawmakers are pushing bills to exclude trans girls from participating in girls’ sports teams. Some states are working to make sure trans folks of any age cannot update the sex on their birth certificate, causing potential nightmares with paperwork and identity for people who do update other information, like their name. And some Republicans are working to ban trans youth from being able to receive gender-affirming medical care by making it a crime for physicians to provide it. All of this amid a literal global pandemic.
Whether or not you’ve followed legislation surrounding trans health care closely, plenty of people got a very disappointing perspective on equality and access thanks to a segment on 60 Minutes. Airing on Sunday, journalist Lesley Stahl hosted a segment that promised to go deep on trans folks and medical care. Instead, viewers learned about detransitioning without other important contexts. First, we can dive into the segment—and why it was such a failure on behalf of trans folks—as well as how families are handling the latest anti-trans onslaught in Arkansas below.
At the opening of the segment, Stahl acknowledges that a number of major medical associations have spoken out against bans on gender-affirming health care. She also noted that researchers have literal decades of material that support the importance of gender-affirming treatments and care. Great!
What’s not so great? The segment doesn’t discuss many facets of trans life and trans health—for example, that trans folks are more likely to experience homelessness, that they’re more likely to be denied housing based on their gender identity, and that many trans folks report experiencing discrimination during the job interview process or if they transition publicly while at work. Even in terms of health care specifically, many trans folks report experiencing discrimination while in the healthcare system, or that they have delayed important medical care because of anxiety or trauma in the system. All of this is important context, especially so when talking about the very sensitive, complex subject the segment actually dives into.
So, what does the segment actually focus on? Detransitioning. Detransitioning is a big, complex, heavy subject. In short, people who detransition transition for some period of time, in some capacity (this might involve hormonal treatments, for example, but it also might not) and then “de” transition to the sex they were assigned at birth. Again, that can involve a number of factors—perhaps it includes changing pronouns or one’s name, but it also doesn't have to. Like all things with gender identity, there are no strict rules here. It’s personal and varied. People who are fighting to keep trans people—and especially trans youth—from gender-affirming care, however, are quick to use examples of people detransitioning as evidence that people should not be able to access this social or medical transition care at all.
In an interview with Stahl, Alphonso David, the president of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), explained the danger of bringing out-of-context stories about detransitioning to the public. "Bringing a story to light about detransitioning without talking about the vast majority of people who positively transition, would cause concern because it sends a message,” he stated. “We need to also elevate the positive stories of people who successfully transition."
Dr. Lee Savio Beers, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, appeared in the segment as well, stressing, “These are not experimental treatments.” Beers stressed that they’re “based in scientific literature, they’re based in decades and decades of expert experience, and they’re backed by a number of major medical organizations.” The AAP opposes a number of current bills that would ban gender-affirming health care, such as the one in Arkansas.
Stahl interviewed four people who said they detransitioned. What the segment failed to include, however, were any of the number of people who felt they had to delay their transition because of social or family pressure, lack of funds, or lack of resources. Or the people who have had to wait years to simply access a gender-affirming physician or therapist. The segment also didn’t talk about the importance of social transition—like changing one’s name or pronouns—but rather focused on medical, which not all trans people (and especially not all trans youth) actually access. In all, the segment was deeply disappointing and limited.
GLAAD apparently felt similarly, as the organization tweeted about the segment.
So, how are families handling the bill passing in Arkansas? We’ve seen parents across the country talk about weighing whether or not it’s the right time to actually move their family to states with more inclusive laws for trans youth. Most recently, mom Shirley Taylor talked to local outlet 40/29 News about her plan to move from Arkansas after her trans daughter, AJ Sheets, wraps up the end of fifth grade. According to Taylor, her daughter came out as trans to her shortly after House Bill 1570, the disgustingly titled “The Arkansas Save Adolescents From Experimentation (SAFE) ACT,” which bans gender-affirming health care for trans youth, was passed.
“I hate to say I've lost a little bit of faith in Arkansas, but I have,” Taylor told the outlet, sharing that she spent most of her life in the state and that her daughter hasn’t lived anywhere else. “But I've just seen so much hate and so much negativity from immediate people surrounding us, and there's just not a lot of support here.”
Taylor also acknowledged that she knows these laws could be stopped, but she said it doesn’t change their decision to leave the area even if they don’t go into effect. “I really want her to be some more supportive and somewhere that's not a toxic environment,” Taylor said in reference to her daughter. “And right now the change is just too slow for us, for it to change our minds.”
You can watch Stahl talk about the segment below.