By Saturn Ludewig
In case anyone does not know what the terms referring to one’s gender mean, transgender is defined, by a Google search, as “denoting or relating to a person whose gender identity does not correspond with the sex registered for them at birth,” a transgender man is someone who was born as a female and labeled as a woman but is transitioning to become a man, while a transgender woman is someone who was born as a male and labeled as a man but is transitioning to become a woman. Non-binary has a few different meanings, but when referring to one’s gender identity is defined as “denoting, having, or relating to a gender identity that does not conform to traditional binary beliefs about gender, which indicates that all individuals are exclusively either male or female,” according to Google. Cisgender is defined as “denoting or relating to a person whose gender identity corresponds with the sex registered for him/her at birth; not transgender,” according to Google.
Many people may know what gender-affirming care is, but there are many who do not. To put it simply, in case someone does not know, gender-affirming care is a medical and psychosocial health care designed to affirm one’s gender identity. This includes hormone therapy (testosterone injections/pills/patches, estrogen injections/pills/patches, puberty blockers, hormone blockers), speech therapy (typically for transgender women or trans feminine to make one’s voice more high pitched and feminine), mental health services, facial reconstruction (to make one’s facial features more masculine or feminine depending on one’s gender identity), “top” surgery (breast enlargement for trans women/trans feminine, removal of breast tissue for trans men/trans masculine), and “bottom” surgery (vaginoplasty for trans women, phalloplasty or metoidioplasty for trans men).
Now, to the question of; Can gender-affirming care save lives? The answer is very simple. Yes, it can and it has. One common misconception about being transgender that can also lead to harmful thoughts is the belief that it is a choice to be transgender. It is not, not in the slightest. Studies from the European Society of Endocrinology have shown the brain structure and brain activity of transgender youth more closely resemble that of his/her preferred gender. Even during early development of the brain, differences of the brain structure and brain activity can be detected. Research has also demonstrated that gender-affirming care does greatly improve the mental health and overall well-being of gender diverse, transgender, non-binary, or non-cisgendered youth and adults. Medical experts agree with the fact that gender-affirming care is a medically necessary care which can be life-saving for transgender youth.
The reason why it can save lives is because of gender, body, top, and bottom dysphoria. Gender dysphoria is defined as “the feeling of discomfort or distress that might occur in people whose gender identity differs from their sex assigned at birth or sex-related physical characteristics.” Top dysphoria is the term used most often to describe someone’s discomfort or distress with their chest and upper body. Bottom dysphoria is the discomfort or distress caused by one’s genitalia, sex, and/or reproductive system not matching one’s gender identity.
With dysphoria, it can cause a transgender person, most commonly a transgender youth, to gain mental health issues like depression and anxiety, dysphoria can give one suicidal thoughts and intentions along with causing someone to self-harm. The best way to improve the mental health of a transgender individual would be gender-affirming care. Although gender-affirming care is not recognized as a complete “cure” for dysphoria, it is the best “treatment” for dysphoria. As a transgender boy myself, I can confirm dysphoria does make one’s mental health and well-being much worse, leading to suicide attempts and self-harm addictions.
The answer to the question of can gender affirming care save lives is simple and valid. Yes, it can, and it has.
Saturn Ludewig is a student at Lanesboro High School, one of 13 area students participating in the Journal Writing Project, now in its 25th year.