On Feb. 22, the Trump administration rescinded Obama-era guidance, which urged schools to allow trans students to use facilities that correspond to their identified gender. This guidance originally emerged in response to efforts to ban transgender people from public restrooms, pushed by conservative state legislators, many of whom were provided with pre-written legislation and lobbied by groups such as the Alliance Defending Freedom and Liberty Counsel.
The rescission of the Obama guidance was not about states' rights — as the Trump administration's saber-rattling over legal marijuana the very next day proved — but about erasing the existence of trans youth from public schools.
Adults often wring their hands over the impact of the "gay agenda" on young people, ignoring both personal agency and the immutable nature of sexuality and gender identity. The pushback against trans rights in recent years has been bolstered by dubious claims from discredited mental health professionals such as Kenneth Zucker and Paul McHugh, and the advocacy of thinly veiled hate groups such as the American College of Pediatrics (not to be confused with the American Academy of Pediatricians, a legitimate medical group which opposes any legislation that discriminates against trans children).
Dara Hoffman-Fox, LPC is the founder of Colorado Springs' The Bohemian Sanctuary, which began as an LGBTQ-friendly counseling service in 2008. By 2013 The Bohemian Sanctuary became a mostly trans-specific practice, working with individuals who questioned their gender identity, as well as those who identify as transgender and gender diverse. Hoffman-Fox has worked with trans people from ages 14 to 65, and provides a wealth of information and resources on the blog and YouTube channel "Conversations with a Gender Therapist." Additionally, Hoffman-Fox's book, You and Your Gender Identity: A Guide to Discovery will be released in September.
Hoffman-Fox notes that there are "so many benefits" to an early transition. "If it can be caught early enough before the onset of puberty you can prevent the puberty that should not be happening." Puberty that often necessitates expensive treatment for trans people later in life, such as painful hair-removal procedures or double mastectomies. Hoffman-Fox notes that medical interventions are not indicated for pre-pubertal children. Young children socially transition — change their name, their pronouns, their clothing, but undergo no irreversible medical procedures. A child's medical transition requires parental consent.
Support for early transition has been echoed in a recent study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, which found "remarkably good mental health outcomes in socially transitioned transgender children." Despite overwhelming scientific evidence supporting transition-related health care for trans people of all ages, groups with an ideological axe to grind continue to spread disinformation. They cite the works of doctors like Zucker, who suggests that gender nonconforming children may experience "desistance," or a sudden cessation of gender dysphoria. While the "wait and see" approach may be palatable for nervous parents, it is often devastating for trans youth who are forced to go through unwanted puberty and who struggle to conform to social expectations of gender.
What is so often missing from the debate about trans youth are the voices of actual trans people. The JAACAP study's conclusions are nothing new. Trans people have been transitioning and leading satisfying lives for years, even before Christine Jorgensen made headlines for her transition in 1952.
Mars Scarlett, Sand Creek High School's first transgender homecoming princess in 2014, has no regrets about her decision to transition at the age of 16. Despite being outed by the news media, kicked out of her family's home and enduring the social stigma of being an openly trans person, Scarlett says: "I've never been this happy with myself in my whole life. Despite all the hardships, ultimately this is what I wanted, this is who I am." Scarlett's sentiments are incredibly common among transitioners.
Trans youth face seemingly insurmountable obstacles to assert their identities, even though they overwhelmingly report an improved quality of life as a result of their transition. The actions taken by the Trump administration and by various state legislators to block trans people from restrooms are an attempt to block trans people from public life, to bully kids back into the closet. Take it from me, bad-faith arguments about desistance don't stop kids from transitioning, it just forces them to wait until they're 30.
Editor's note: Details regarding The Bohemian Sanctuary's services have been altered at the request of Dara Hoffman-Fox.