Alabama’s Anti-Transgender Law

Jace Boland, Writer

41% of transgender people in the United States have attempted suicide at one point in their life. For many trans and nonbinary individuals, medical transitioning can be lifesaving. 67% of trans people reported considering suicide pre-transition, where only 3% ever considered after medical transitioning. Gender dysphoria, a medical condition often seen in transgender people, is associated with heightened levels of depression and suicidal ideation. Common treatments for gender dysphoria can include therapy as well as medical transitioning, but for trans kids in Alabama, those options may soon disappear. A bill passed in the Alabama Senate this March would ban any trans person under the age of 19 from receiving any type of gender affirming medical treatment, making the performance of such medical procedures a Class C felony.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, gender dysphoria is classified as “psychological distress that results from an incongruence between one’s sex assigned at birth and one’s gender.” While damaging on its own, 71% of the time it goes hand in hand with other conditions such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, mood disorders, eating disorders, and many more. In recent years there has been much debate amongst medical professionals and politicians surrounding the morality of medical transitioning for transgender youth. Some believe that it is harmful, potentially even child abuse, to allow anyone under the age of 18 to undergo permanent physical treatment for gender dysphoria. Others argue that these treatments, such as puberty blockers,hormone replacement therapy, and various gender affirming surgeries, are often necessary treatments for transgender youth at risk. Alabama legislators have decided on the former argument, barring access to medical treatment to all transgender people under the age of 19. Kathleen Martin, college guidance counselor at WFS and sponsor for the school Gender and Sexuality Alliance, believes “it’s a travesty; the proposed bill is counter to the opinion of medical experts. Criminalizing support for transgender youth serves no purpose other than hate.”

Not only does the proposed bill make the performance of any gender affirming medical treatment on anyone under the age of 19 a Class C felony, but it also outlaws any authority figure from withholding the information that a child is trans from their parents. Elliott Stankova ‘24 says “this is dangerous because you have no idea where a kid’s parent stands on the topic of transgender people, or if they are abusive or not. You don’t know how much of a hell you could put a child in.” This bill, if passed, could prove disastrous and even deadly to trans youth in Alabama.

Debates concerning what degree of control the government should have over citizens’ bodily autonomy have increased in recent decades. The tensions between pro-choice and anti-abortion movements are a prime example of the division between those who believe that personal medical choices should not be politicized and those who stand behind these government regulations. Martin says, “In the 80s, we were chanting ‘keep your laws off my body!’ We shouldn’t have to continually fight for basic human decency and dignity. Laws that try to control bodies impose antiquated views on people; our country was founded on a separation of church and state.” As there is significant misinformation and bias regarding transgender people in the country, it is often argued by transgender activists that politicians are not educated enough to be making decisions regarding trans healthcare. Senator Shay Shelsnutt, who introduced the bill, stated “What is gender dysphoria? I looked it up,” and “science shows that children that are going through this gender dysphoria, most of them mature or grow out of this stage if they are given the chance.” A politician armed with a simple google search managed to go against decades of advanced scientific research from renowned institutions such as Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, University of Washington, and the American Medical Student Association, which all recognize transgender individuals as medically valid. Bella Adjei-Owusu ‘22 believes “it honestly is ridiculous how wealthy, older people get to abuse their power to take control of the lives of certain Americans that don’t fit their criteria. It isn’t helping anyone’s cause, but is causing a division and ostracizing already oppressed communities.”

This bill passed in Alabama has caused significant controversy in the country in recent months. Arkansas, who recently banned transfeminine people from participating in womens’ sports, also followed with their own bill prohibiting gender-affirming medical treatment for those under the age of 18. Many medical experts and transgender activists have condemned their actions, while many parents and politicians believe this bill will protect the health of transgender children. Trans healthcare has always been the subject of much contention politically, but recent events have brought the debate to light, and it remains undecided amongst the public whether restricting transgender healthcare harms or helps children across America.


* Editor’s Note: This law was vetoed as this issue went to press. G. O. P. Governor of Arkansas, Asa Hutchinson ruled to veto this law – a rare Republican rejection veto amid growing effort to restrict transgender peoples’ healthcare and human rights by the G. O. P.