Guest Editorials

Do Utah legislators even understand transgender healthcare for minors?

by Briana Cluck

Utah’s HB132, “Prohibiting Sex Transitioning Procedures On Minors,” is an ill-informed bill based not out of fact, but out of fear and resentment for our transgender community.

It’s important to emphasize that “sex transitioning procedures on minors” are vanishingly rare. Section VI of the World Professional Association on Transgender Health standards of care lays out the treatment process for transgender minors.

The majority of this treatment is therapy and social support. Medical interventions in youths are typically restricted to a puberty-suppressing medication of the same kind used to address early periods, growth plate disorders, and other puberty-related conditions.

While hormone therapy is an option for minors, the standards of care state that hormone therapy can only occur in two cases — when the minor is no longer a minor and still maintains a transgender identity, or when the minor has reached the age of medical consent for the state in which they live and have been on puberty blockers in conjunction with therapy for a minimum of four years to determine persistence in identity.

Of note is the lack of any framework by which minors can receive surgery. While the standards of care do have a provision saying some female-to-male clients may be eligible for top surgery (double mastectomy, typically done in conjunction with a nipple graft) after several years of treatment, this is mentioned as a side note, and not as an official WPATH recommendation. By and large, gender-reaffirming surgery does not happen to minors in the US.

However, transgender minors do exist in the United States. The Trevor Project found that roughly 2 percent of youths identify as transgender.

A project conducted by the CDC found that transgender youth report feelings of isolation, hopelessness, and depression due to a lack of social acceptance and appropriate education about transgender identity and health.

Many transgender Americans report that they have to educate their doctors on what being transgender means and how to treat them, and face discrimination in the medical and legal systems

Moreover, HB132 comes with the precedence of other states which have attempted similar restrictions. For example, the Oklahoma legislature has now proposed “the millstone act,” which would bar medical intervention in transgender people up to 26 years old, well into the age of majority. These bills ultimately come from a misunderstanding of the transgender population and a fear of transgender people, relying on a kind of boogeyman of transgender activists trying to “recruit” children, similar to how “the gay agenda” was portrayed in the 2000s.

We believe that Utah deserves better and can do better than a bill based more on fear and prejudice than on actual facts and medical procedures, and we must urge our elected officials to strike down this bill.

Brianna Cluck is the Utah County Democrats’ Stonewall Caucus Chair. She advocates for LGBTQA+ rights and is the former president of Provo Pride’s board.

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