Editor’s note: The following column talks about suicide and may be difficult for some readers. If you are having thoughts about suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text 741-741, or the Department of Mental Health at 1-877-210-8513.
The Mississippi Legislature is back in session, and lawmakers are wasting no time in introducing legislation that would harm the lives of transgender and nonbinary (TNB) youth across our state. House Bill 1125—which passed through the House and now awaits action in the Senate—would prohibit people 18 and under from seeking gender-affirming health care like puberty-blockers, hormone replacement therapy and gender-affirming surgeries and operations.
The very same people who host a rally every year in support of “school choice,” exclaiming that parents have a right to shape their children’s lives, are getting ready to prevent parents of TNB youth from having a say in their own child’s health care. The very same people who said that government was overreaching on the COVID vaccines and that personal liberty and freedom trumped public health apparently have no problem dictating the personal health-care choices of trans and nonbinary kids—even when their parents support those choices.
There is ample research showing that receiving gender-affirming care for TNB youth lowers severe depression and psychological stress, the tendency to engage in self-harm, and suicidal ideation and behavior. It can literally be life-saving for these kids.
Another study found that compared to just 5% of their straight, cis-gendered peers, 23% of gay, lesbian and bisexual youth, and 14% of youth unsure of their sexual identity, attempted suicide. Denying these options to TNB youth will mean more self-isolation and self-hatred, negative mental health outcomes, and it will cost lives.
It will also cost Mississippi some of her brightest, most creative, young talent—both to the graveyard, tragically, and to other states where this nonsense isn’t an issue. It’s enough to have to constantly worry about access to clean water, outdated public infrastructure, underfunded public schools, blatant public corruption, failing hospitals, and lack of fair opportunities. When you add on targeted, bigoted policies that alienate and harm LGBTQ+ people, it is the last straw for many.
Legislators’ Sustained Attack on Nonbinary Youth
Proponents of this legislation want you to believe that there are scores of young people flocking to providers and seeking gender-affirming treatment—having surgeries without their parents knowing, taking gender-affirming hormones without supervision or health guidance. They paint a picture of chaos.
In reality, young people are not making these health decisions alone. They involve parents, families, doctors, mental health professionals and other practitioners—the people who belong in the conversation. Our legislators and elected officials do not belong in these families’ treatment rooms, and they should not have a say in the choices these young people and their families make together. Let’s put that “limited government” principle to the test and leave these very personal decisions to the people who will be directly affected.
These same types of anti-trans bills are being introduced in statehouses across the country, fueling a sustained attack on nonbinary youth, their families, their health-care choices and their bodily autonomy. It is hard to understand why—other than for political points and gain, or to fuel the culture wars that some politicians use to power their ambitions and appease their base of voters.
Isn’t the well-being and the lives of Mississippi children more important than silly political games? Isn’t one life lost too many?
And this is just the latest round of direct attack against trans and nonbinary people. Banning them from public restrooms that align with their identity, restricting and interfering with their ability to play sports, purposeful misgendering and disinformation about pronoun preferences; the list goes on and on. Not to mention ignoring the years-long wave of violence across the country and here in Mississippi aimed at trans women of color.
It seems the cruelty knows no bounds, and this latest round of attacks only adds to the ostracization of the TNB community.
Instead of targeting these young people with harmful legislation that will threaten their mental health, why don’t our leaders consider supporting these young people with the resources they need? Imagine if instead of this nonsense, our state invested in public health and education around TNB issues.
What if we funded programs at our public hospitals that actually helped TNB people get the care they need? What if we expanded Medicaid and made sure that the people struggling the most had access to healthcare?
What if we funded our rural hospitals and didn’t stand by as their doors close one after the next? What if we invested in education around diversity, equity and inclusion?
We can make different choices. Our leaders can choose differently.
Blake Case is a member of the board of directors of the Mississippi Journalism and Education Group, which publishes the Mississippi Free Press. He is writing here as an individual; this MFP Voices essay does not necessarily represent the views of the Mississippi Journalism and Education Group, the Mississippi Free Press, its staff or board members. To submit an opinion for the MFP Voices section, send up to 1,200 words of fact-checked information to firstname.lastname@example.org. We welcome a wide variety of viewpoints.