Opinion: The devastating message state bans on gender-affirming care sends to kids like me

Health care for trans people is important and should not be ignored.

Opinion: The devastating message state bans on gender-affirming care sends to kids like me

Editor's note: Henry Seaton, trans justice advocate at American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee oversees the trans justice campaign, TRANScend Tennessee. This commentary is the author's opinion. CNN has more opinions.


Since my 8th birthday, my desire to be a boy was clear. I was disappointed that I couldn't play on the boys' softball team, and also felt upset about not being able the play on the baseball team for boys. I was uncomfortable at girls-only events and girls-only clubs. I subconsciously joined the boys at every activity, and was constantly reminded that this space wasn't for me. Sometimes I would pretend to be my secret twin brother, switching with my feminine self.

I didn't understand what it was like to be transgender so I could not share my feelings with others. The pain I felt at the start of female puberty was unbearable. I wanted to just disappear. I felt unexplained anger, sorrow and sadness all the time. I had no teachers to trust, no therapist that would help me and no primary care provider who would give me the same care as cisgender kids.

I tried to be a girl and worked hard at it. Growing up a Christian, my parents advised me to delete secular music from my iPod and to not read secular books in my spare time. I also joined prayer groups to support me, learn more about femininity, and pray for God's healing touch.

I realized eventually that pretending to be someone I wasn't was dangerous. My family and friends were guilty of lying to me, which caused shame and guilt. I was unable to connect with others because of this.

High school was difficult for me to socially transition. I was bullied and refused to use the bathroom I loved. It was worth it to finally be identified as me. Even though I lived my life as a man, many people still considered me a girl. This led to extreme pain and strife. Medical transition was essential in my teens to feel at peace.

Only after many discussions with my family and friends, I was able to start testosterone at 17. I'm now 25. It was difficult to receive hormone therapy. I saw multiple psychiatrists and therapists throughout the process and socially transitioned almost a year before finally receiving medical treatment. My mother and I went through a long and detailed list of permanent changes that hormone therapy brought to my life. This was the Tennessee medical standard -- a responsible, individual approach to starting medical care.

However, Tennessee Governor. Bill Lee, the Tennessee governor, signed a law banning gender-affirming care for minors. This is a terrible move that would harm so many people like myself. A blanket ban on medically necessary, age-appropriate care is similar to telling children like me that it's not worth living their lives if they are honest with themselves. They are told that they have no value if their lives don't fit a certain standard. It is devastating, dangerous and cruel.

My life was saved by medical transition as a minor. It provided the solid foundation for treatment of anxiety and depression to start to work. It was the missing piece to effectively address my mental health issues. It was testosterone that gave me the confidence to see a bright future and to set goals for my life.

I don't want my identity to be erased. Thanks to testosterone, I can finally see myself in the mirror and realize that my friends and family can love me for who I am and not the archetypes I created to please them.

My walls of fear around me crumbled. My family was introduced to a happy, confident teenager with strong self-identity and self-esteem -- someone they hadn’t seen since I was a child.

You could be given an endless number of statistics, such as the high rate of violence and harassment that trans youth experience, the barriers that prevent trans people from accessing care, and the fact that all of these factors put us at an extreme risk of suicide.

On their support of gender-affirming healthcare for young people, I could cite American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association and American Psychological Association. Instead, I would rather have a conversation about my grandmother.

She is the most conservative woman that I know. When we discussed bans at state level on gender-affirming care for kids, she was not in agreement with me. These health care practices should not be given to children, as they are unable to make such a decision until adulthood.

I explained to her that trans children need to have access to health care. This will allow them to live truthfully and not lie. It will also improve their self-worth, relationships with their families, and ability to envision a bright future. She understood the need and agreed to my suggestion.

This puts the focus back on what matters: helping children to be themselves and live a happy, fulfilled life. Hormone therapy and minor medical treatment were crucial for me and thousands of other people to live a fulfilling life.

Individual liberty and personal freedom require that you have the ability to make your own decisions about health care with your medical professionals. This is without government interference. Transhealth care is vital, lifesaving, and safe regardless of what the state governments say.