A Beacon of Hope

Gwendolyn Ann Smith
By | 2018-09-26T14:12:40-04:00 September 26th, 2018|Opinions, Viewpoints|

Recent reports say that 0.7 percent of teens identify as transgender. At the same time, a recent study from the American Academy of Pediatrics reports that 50.8 percent of trans masculine people attempt suicide, with gender non-conforming people doing the same 41.8 percent of the time. Also it reports that 29.9 percent of trans masculine people also attempting to kill themselves.
These seems painfully unsurprising. Especially given the epidemic levels of violence transgender people face, cast against a backdrop of increased discrimination and stigma brought on by a hostile administration that seeks to cut back on our rights at every turn.
This is a time when the religious right sees the transgender community as it’s new, post-Obergefell target, seeking to force us our of existence at every turn — and often times literally.
Meanwhile, we also see other groups forming alliances with the right, or sharing similar views, attempting to cut transgender people off from public accommodations, crisis centers and other vital needs. A lot of doors may be closed to us today.
That is what makes the following news so welcome.
In light of those fairly grim statistics, AAP is releasing a new policy statement on transgender and gender-diverse children and adolescents. Its goal is a simple one: to help parents and pediatricians aid the health of our youth while seeking to lessen the effects of discrimination.
This is a great step, and falls in line with other recent statements in support of transgender people. For example, the World Health Organization has moved transgender people from its classifications for mental illness, moving gender incongruence to its list of sexual health conditions.
These steps, in particular that of the AAP, are nothing short of life-saving.
I find that I often end up sounding a bit like the grizzled oldster I have become, sharing yarns about walking uphill to school with newspaper stuffed in my shoes to plug the holes. It seems a common response, endemic to humans and their histories. We glorify our pasts while also claiming the hardships we faced somehow made us stronger and better people.
That said, when I think of how hard it was, all those years ago, to find information on being transgender, and how unaccepting the culture was of people like me, I don’t find myself falling into some misguided feeling that I am somehow all the better for having fought my way through those days. I simply got lucky, while many of my peers did not.
All these years later, however, I’m not sure that those younger than I face a less antagonistic world than I did. Trans youth still find themselves kicked out of homes, facing violence and stigma at school or in the streets, and dealing with an increasingly hostile world.
What the AAP is trying to do is help change that. This is an organization of 67,000 medical professionals, and having them out there trying to make the world better for trans and gender non-conforming youth is notable.
First and foremost, they are recommending a more “gender-affirming” approach, providing a nonjudgmental stance, in order to help these kids feel safe and non-stigmatized. This alone is a huge step, given that many trans youth may feel they are not being taken seriously.
AAP is also recommending comprehensive health care for trans youth, and appropriate family-based therapy that can help caregivers, families and siblings of trans youth.
They’re also pushing for respectful health records that take into account a person’s gender identity, advocating for health insurance plans that assist trans and gender non-conforming youth, and even pushing for additional laws and policies to promote acceptance.
For several years, we’ve seen a pushback from the right over Obama-era policies that supported trans students in public schools. The current Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, seems plenty hostile towards those policies as well, meaning we cannot expect this administration to serve as an advocate for our youth.
As such, the AAP is stepping into some of that role. It’s helping to change minds and effect policy while our government fails to protect its trans citizens.
What the AAP is providing here is nothing short of a bright beacon of hope that we can focus on, one that can help us to keep moving forward in an otherwise very bleak and barren landscape.
I know I often talk about how bad things are, which is all the more reason why I want to point out something like this. These recommendations will reach a lot of people, and those people are likely to help make chang in their own medical centers and clinics.
Indeed, this could be just the start of something: through the actions of AAP, we may see even more organizations to come forward. After all, we need even more medical professionals coming forward to advocate for transgender people of all ages.
More than this, we need society at large to heed the actions of the AAP, and begin to shift in favor of supporting transgender and gender non-conforming people in this society.
While I said that things may not have improved a whole lot for transgender people since I was first feeling my way though the dark, there is one thing that has changed: more people can learn about trans people, and learn about us a lot younger.
As such, it becomes all the more vital that doctors and others are ready, armed with the best information and a compassionate heart. This is a great first step in that direction.
Gwen Smith likes the positive steps. You’ll find her at gwensmith.com.

About the Author:

Gwendolyn Ann Smith
Gwen Smith's restroom is tiki themed. You'll find her at gwensmith.com.