Gender-affirming care saved one of my children, and I won’t give it to another | Opinion
As the loving mother of four (plus a “bonus” child), my journey has proven that not only do doctors in Idaho not “push” gender-affirming care onto families, but obtaining health care for trans youth can be quite difficult to get, even when it’s needed.
And sometimes, it is very needed.
I know because two of my children struggled with their gender identity. One of them needed gender-affirming health care, which saved their life. The other not only doesn’t need gender-affirming medical care, but their quality of life would be negatively impacted if they did receive it.
I come from a traditional Mormon background, working as a stay-at-home wife and mom, homeschooling my children and even not having a TV in the house. My ability to support my trans kids is a credit to my oldest, who came out as gay years before it became apparent that two of my other kids had gender dysphoria.
Each of my children are unique, different people with unique, different wants and needs. I love them equally, but if one child scrapes their knee, I would not offer Band-Aids to all of them. Such are the ramifications of broad-sweeping legislation as House Bill 71 that affects all young people as if they were the same person in the same situation.
Several years ago, my husband, four children and I brought a bonus child into our family as part of a mutually agreed upon intervention in a very difficult situation. “John” (not his real name) was 15 years old at the time, and struggling with severe depression and anxiety. He’d enter into extended periods of dissociation, where he’d simply sit and stare in a nearly catatonic state, not responding to outside stimuli.
John’s medical journey ended up being more harrowing than I anticipated.
We started with antidepressants and therapy. When he didn’t improve, we tried other medications and other therapists, some of whom were good and some of whom were not great. He was more intense when he was having a period, so we thought maybe he had Premenstrual dysphoric disorder, so we got him on birth control to stop periods. It wasn’t until we tried that that his gender dysphoria became more apparent. Even so, we were many times discouraged from treating his gender dysphoria. We searched for physicians, but were told no one in Twin Falls could help and the nearest medical professional with gender-affirming expertise was in Salt Lake City. I am grateful that our family had the means to take John to Salt Lake City for specialized treatment; I had the time to take him as someone who wouldn’t need to take time away from work, and our family had financial means. This is simply not the reality for so many families.
After an incredible amount of paperwork, permissions, sessions and visits, we finally got John on testosterone hormone therapy, and he began his transition. As soon as he started taking testosterone, he came back to life. He joked, laughed, was energetic, and was no longer talking about his death. He was completely and utterly changed.
That was six years ago. John is attending college, and unless he reveals this information, people don’t know he is transgender. He is thriving now — a complete 180 degree turn from how he was when he first came into our family.
Gender-affirming care saved his life. There is no question about that. He would not have lasted two or three more years without care.
Now, my youngest, “Harper” (not her real name), is a teenager and struggling with their gender identity. We are working through it together, leading with love and open conversations both in and out of therapy. They have had gender dysphoria for six years, but Harper is a very different child from John.
Not all trans kids need gender-affirming care; some need to wait, others cannot wait. The answer for Harper is not hormones, yet. However, that is something we understand because of our experience with John and because of the highly individualized care we’ve spent years working on. Despite knowing Harper has gender dysphoria, none of the therapists or medical providers have said a single word about hormone therapy for Harper. Not one. I can guarantee doctors are not “pushing” this kind of care onto kids who don’t need it. They’re not pushing it on anyone, even if it is needed.
I don’t know where Harper is going to land in their gender journey, but I do know that if they were forced into hormone treatment, it would be bad for them.
Here is the bottom line: Gender-affirming health care needs to be available. The stats about the majority of trans kids end up detransitioning are completely false. But even if they were true, why take away an option that works for 20% of young people just because it wasn’t right for 80%? That makes no sense.
As a mother who has held these children as they cried, who has spent countless nights awake, worried about their well-being, who has seen them fall and flourish, who knows that even as teenagers they sometimes need a mother to stay by their side until they sleep, I cannot be convinced that anyone in the Idaho legislature knows what is better for my kids than I do. No one in the Idaho legislature loves my children more than I do. None of them are as familiar with my children’s medical records and medical needs than their primary care physician.
Do not take options away from parents who are trying to do right by their children. You don’t belong in these decisions. You don’t understand. Stop this bill – young people will die if you don’t.
Jen Blair is a wife and mother in the Treasure Valley. She was one of the original members of Mama Dragons, a group of LDS mothers who support LGBTQ+ rights for their children and communities, and currently runs a podcast exploring gender identity, sexual orientation, and parenting.