Cowley & Lezaic: Leave Trans Kids Alone


Carlene Coombs

Protestors hold hearts towards transgender youth sitting on the steps of the Utah State Capitol on March 24, 2022. (Photo by Carlene Coombs | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Elle Cowley and Angela Lezaic


Months ago, one of us wrote an article about how a wave of anti-trans legislation was set to hit the U.S. next legislative season. Well, it’s here. In Utah, this year’s legislative session has introduced five anti-trans bills that, if approved, would majorly impact trans people in the state. Anti-trans legislation like S.B. 100 and S.B. 16 strips trans youth’s right to privacy, bodily autonomy and basic health care.

What’s Happening

This session looks incredibly bleak. On Jan. 24, children, families and advocacy groups gathered in protest of this year’s anti-trans legislation. Despite emotional testimonies and an outpouring of love, the Utah State Legislature callously chose to pass S.B. 16. This inhumane bill, sponsored by Sen. Michael S. Kennedy and Rep. Katy Hall, bans life-saving gender-affirming healthcare, including hormones, puberty blockers and surgeries.

S.B. 100, sponsored by Sen. Todd D. Weiler and Rep. Stephanie Gricius, is a watered-down version of Florida’s notorious “Don’t Say Gay” bill. In essence, this bill seeks to forcibly out any trans child who wishes to change their name or preferred pronouns in school by requiring parental consent. All S.B. 100 does is put queer youth at more risk.

Removing access to gender-affirming care at any age is incredibly harmful to trans people. The ability to access gender-affirming care like puberty blockers decreases suicidality in trans youth by 73%. For a Congressperson to pass a bill as detrimental as S.B. 16 is an irresponsible abuse of power. To sign S.B. 16 into law is to knowingly sentence trans kids to death.

Not only will the ban on affirming care greatly impact all trans kids in Utah, but the addition of S.B. 100 will also strip them of their right to privacy and disclosure on their own terms. In 2022, fewer than one in three trans or nonbinary kids lived in gender-affirming homes. Transgender youth are more likely to experience physical, psychological and sexual abuse than their cis counterparts. For safety reasons, not everyone can come out to their parents for fear of rising tensions at home, increased abuse and even homelessness. LGBTQ youth are already at an increased risk of homelessness, but trans youth experience it at much higher rates: 38% of trans women/girls and 39% of trans men/boys have experienced homelessness at some point, compared to 23% of cisgender LGBTQ youth.

Not every household is going to be accepting of their trans child. This new round of legislation is not only anti-trans, but anti-child. By passing these bills, lawmakers make the conscious decision to put a group of children at risk just because they need different care than their cis-counterparts. Their lack of compassion is setting Utah backwards on its road to becoming a safe and equitable place for all to live.

Trans People are People Too

We are tired of legislators trying to absolve themselves with weak arguments and excuses. When interviewed on S.B. 100, Sen. Weiler said, “There’s nothing in my bill that requires the school to notify the parents unless they’re changing their records.” This, however, means the child would have to continue being misidentified daily and living every day as a battle to ensure teachers and peers respect their identity. It puts trans children at an impasse where they have to choose between feeling safe at home or at school. That’s a decision no child should ever have to make.

Trans people experience barriers to receiving health care that many cis people will never have to experience. Now, trans people are in danger of having their rights to privacy and safety stripped as well. Trans bodies get demonized just to make cis people feel better about themselves, and that’s disgusting. These bills introduced this session are not the last time trans rights will be on the ballot. Care bans on trans children only pave the way for restrictions on care for trans adults. We already see this happening in Oklahoma, where a proposed bill would ban gender-affirming care for anyone under the age of 26. This incessant need to police trans bodies does nothing but put trans people at risk and provides an excuse for the increased incidents of violence against trans people.

Life as a trans youth is already hard enough. This new legislation seeks to make life unlivable. But no amount of legislation will erase trans people. As protestors at the Capitol put it, trans people have always been here and they will always be here. It’s time the legislature lets that sink in.


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