Human Rights Campaign Condemns Utah Governor Spencer Cox for Signing Dangerous Ban on Gender Affirming Care for Transgender Youth into Law; First Anti-LGBTQ+ Law of 2023 Now on the Books

by Aneesha Pappy

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - Today, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization, rebukes Utah Governor Spencer Cox for signing SB 16, a law that will effectively ban the provision of gender affirming care to transgender patients under the age of 18.

Gov. Cox signed the bill on Saturday, January 28. Last year, Governor Cox vetoed anti-transgender legislation knowing his veto would be overridden, explaining,“Rarely has so much fear and anger been directed at so few. I don’t understand what they are going through or why they feel the way they do. But I want them to live.” By signing this anti-transgender piece of legislation into law, the Governor has now caved to anti-equality extremists. Utah SB 16 is the first anti-LGBTQ+ bill signed into law in 2023. Last year alone, 344 anti-LGBTQ+ bills were introduced across 23 states. More than 25 were enacted across 13 states -- 17 of which have a disproportionate or targeted impact on transgender people.

This law is one of many dangerous efforts far right political extremists and national anti-LGBTQ+ organizations are launching in Utah and across the country against transgender youth and their families. Bolstered by disinformation spread by social media and designed to take aim at age appropriate, life-saving, medically necessary care for transgender youth, these bans directly place the health, safety and wellbeing of transgender youth in Utah at risk.

In response, Cathryn Oakley, HRC’s State Legislative Director and Senior Counsel released the following statement:

“In signing this bill into law, Governor Cox has directly placed the LGBTQ+ youth he previously claimed to want to protect in harm’s way. Denying transgender and non-binary youth – an extremely vulnerable group already – access to medically necessary, age-appropriate and scientifically supported medical care is dangerous, spiteful, and flies in the face of the recommendations of every major medical group in this country. Parents, doctors, and transgender youth together discuss possible care and make the deeply individualized decision about what kind of care is most appropriate for each young person. Politicians with no medical training and no real understanding of the harmful impact these bans have on transgender people should have no say in how best practice, age appropriate care is delivered. The facts matter, and so do these young folks. We will continue to fight so that they’re not denied medically necessary, age-appropriate care simply because they are transgender.”

Get the facts about gender-affirming care:

  • Every credible medical organization – representing over 1.3 million doctors in the United States – calls for age-appropriate gender-affirming care for transgender and non-binary people.
    • “Transition-related” or “gender-affirming” care looks different for every transgender and non-binary person.

    • Parents, their kids, and doctors make decisions together, and no medical interventions with permanent consequences happen until a transgender person is old enough to give truly informed consent.

  • Gender transition is a personal process that can include changing clothes, names, and hairstyles to fit a person’s gender identity.
    • Some people take medication, and some do not; some adults have surgeries, and others do not. How someone transitions is their choice, to be made with their family and their doctor.

    • Therapists, parents and health care providers work together to determine which changes to make at a given time that are in the best interest of the child.

    • In most young children, this care can be entirely social. This means:
      • New name

      • New hairstyle

      • New clothing

      • None of this care is irreversible.

  • Being transgender is not new.
    • Some say it can feel like being transgender is very new – but that’s because the media has been covering it more in recent months and years.

    • But transgender people have always existed and will continue to exist regardless of the bills we pass.

    • And very few transgender people change their mind.

  • ALL gender-affirming care is:
    • Age-appropriate

    • Medically necessary

    • Supported by all major medical organizations

    • Made in consultation with medical and mental health professionals AND parents

  • And in many cases, this care is lifesaving!
    • A recent study from the Trevor Project provides data supporting this — transgender youth with access to gender-affirming hormone therapy have lower rates of depression and are at a lower risk for suicide.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ+ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.

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