Gender affirming procedures: A necessary prevention to suicide

Beckett Tudor

In recent years, gender identity has become a more prevalent topic than ever before. In fact, 20 percent of the United States transgender population is under 18 years old. Thus, providing gender-affirming procedures for this larger population of transgender youth has become a noticeable issue. However, this has been met with a massive amount of controversy. Religious qualms with the idea of transgenderism and parental desires to prevent permanent changes to their children have led to resistance to puberty blockers and other procedures being given to trans kids. The fact that transphobic ideals are morally deplorable is an entirely different problem. Transgender people, specifically youth, experience much higher rates of suicidal thoughts than their cisgender peers. Because of this, right to trans hormonal therapy and puberty blockers need to be protected as a means to prevent suicide.

South Dakota recently passed a law banning all forms of puberty blockers, hormonal therapy, and gender-affirming surgery for people under 18 years old. While some may say this law or others similar to it do not have any direct impact on the lives of transgender kids in California or at Redwood, it sets a negative precedent for nationwide legislation and creates a more hostile environment for transgender youth across the country. This access to gender affirming procedures is essential for reducing suicide rates amongst transgender youth. According to the National Institute of Health, 40 percent of transgender people under 18 have attempted suicide, and 87 percent have had suicidal thoughts. Compared to the 9 percent of all minors who have attempted suicide, this is a massive disparity between cis and trans kids. This difference can be attributed to social pressures, family issues, and gender dysphoria.

Illustration by Gabbi Levi

However, gender-affirming procedures can assist in this issue. According to Pubmed, transgender youth experience a 60 percent reduction in rates of depression after going through hormonal therapy. This procedure is not permanent, and simply changes one’s levels of testosterone or estrogen to change their body to be more aligned with their gender identity. Hormonal therapy and puberty blockers are considered entirely safe for minors by the Food and Drug Administration. This type of care, surgical procedures aside, is incredibly helpful for the mental health of trans youth. 

South Dakota lawmakers and other politicians often have problems with gender affirming procedures for children because of the potential for permanent repercussions. However, surgery is not the only type of procedure that is used. Hormonal therapy and puberty blockers are much more common and are temporary. While permanent changes caused by surgery undergone as a child could be damaging down the road, short-term medical procedures that allow youth to improve their mental health and align themselves better with their gender identity are essential. Should the child no longer identify as transgender down the road, there are absolutely no long-term consequences for them to be able to take said procedures. The improvement in the mental health of the trans person far outweighs any misconceptions about permanent damage.

There will never be a unanimous consensus about the idea of young people identifying as transgender. Various religious and moral stances prevent this from ever being the case. However, this does not mean that youth should be restricted from accessing the hormonal therapies and puberty blockers they desire. The evidence is excruciatingly clear; these procedures drastically lower depression and suicide rates. Because of this, no matter what anyone’s stance on gender identity or transgenderism is, gender-affirming medicine must be protected for everyone.