Oregonians feel impact of anti-transgender push in Texas, other states

PORTLAND, Ore. (KGW) — Families with transgender children are closely watching as dozens of states work to target transgender youth and their parents with discriminatory legislation.

Although Oregon has strong protections for transgender and nonbinary people, many Oregonians are still feeling the impact.

“It’s dire,” said Carrie Brantley, who moved to Portland from Texas with her immediate family about five years ago.

“Yes, it’s a very dire situation,” agreed her 13-year-old, George, who is transgender. “People accepting who you are is a very big privilege.”

He knows that privilege is scarce.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott recently made a directive that said providing gender-affirming medical care to a transgender child is child abuse. That includes hormone treatment and puberty blockers, which are reversible, and gender reassignment surgeries, which are not performed on children regardless.

“One-hundred percent misinformation,” Carrie said.

Gov. Abbott’s directive called on the state to investigate parents who allow gender-affirming care. The ACLU sued, and a judge Wednesday granted a temporary restraining order to prevent those investigations, according to CNN.

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“It’s concerted effort and coordinated effort,” explained Jenn Burleton, program director of the Transactive Gender Project at the Lewis & Clark College Graduate School of Education and Counseling.

Burleton has advocated for the transgender community for about 16 years and said a recent wave of anti-transgender legislation is part of a nationwide campaign by far-right groups working to push a false narrative.

“Complete disinformation,” she said. “There are no medical-surgical interventions being performed on children anywhere in the United States.”

“Completely unfounded,” agreed Dr. Kara Connelly, a pediatric endocrinologist at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital OHSU. Connelly provides gender-affirming care to youth who need it.

“They face a lot of challenges to access care,” Connelly said. “It’s important for me to try to break down some of the barriers.”

She explained providing the affirming care is important toward long-term physical and mental health of transgender youth.

The Human Rights Campaign noted a record 34 states introduced more than 140 anti-transgender bills last year. NBC News reported at least seven states added new ones in just the first week of 2022.

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A national survey in 2021 by the Trevor Project showed 94% of LGBTQ youth responded that recent politics negatively impacted their mental health. The same report said 42% of responding youth seriously considered suicide, which included half of transgender and nonbinary youth.

However, a year-long study by JAMA Network following health outcomes of transgender youth showed that gender-affirming care led to a 60% decrease in moderate to severe depression and a 74% decrease in self half and suicidal thoughts.

“Medically necessary and life saving,” Connelly said of gender-affirming care.

Despite more than half of states introducing anti-transgender bills, a PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll found two-thirds of Americans are against laws that would limit transgender rights.

For transgender and nonbinary youth watching the conflict play out across the county, Oregon advocates had a message.

“Knowing yourself is the deepest truth,” Burlton said. “There are allies out here.”

“We see you and care for you,” Connelly agreed.

“Transgender children are perfect, just the way they are,” said Carrie, looking toward George. “I’m very proud of you.”

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