The debate over gender-affirming care is tearing our country apart as an unprecedented wave of anti-trans legislation banning healthcare for transgender children — in some cases altogether — sweeps the nation.
Caught in the crossfire are scores of people who aren’t trans but whose lives are also saved by gender-affirming care, and their access to the healthcare they need is being threatened, too.
Activist and author Alicia Roth Weigel knows firsthand that gender-affirming care bans harm far more than just trans people.
First things first — the fact that the bans harm trans people alone should be enough to stop them from happening. Common decency, trans peoples’ fundamental humanity, and the medical necessity of the treatment they need, should be reason enough.
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That said, there seems to be a fundamental lack of awareness on how far-reaching gender-affriming care bans really are, and who exactly they are harming.
As an intersex person, activist and author Alicia Roth Weigel knows this firsthand. Without some of the very gender-affirming care procedures being banned across the country, Weigel may well have died in childhood.
Weigel relies upon the same hormone replacement therapy transgender people need in order for her to stay alive.
In a TikTok video by The Washington Post, Roth Weigel, an activist and author of the memoir “Inverse Cowgirl,” which details her experiences living as an intersex woman in one of the nexuses of the anti-trans movement, Texas, she described precisely why gender-affirming care bans harm more people than many realize.
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Intersex is a natural variation in humans in which a person is born with reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t conform to the usual definitions of “male” and “female.” Some intersex people, like Roth Weigel, also have chromosomes that fall outside of the usual “male” or “female” arrangements or that don’t accord with their anatomy.
As she explained in the video, “Despite having XY [‘male’] chromosomes, despite being born with internal testes, I developed looking very female.” As frequently happens with intersex babies, Roth Weigel was operated upon in infancy to remove her testes, despite the fact that “had my testes remained intact, my body would have taken the testosterone that they produced and automatically converted it to estrogen.”
Instead, the procedure “forced my body into hormone withdrawal, and I am now required to take external hormone replacement therapy, similarly to what transgender individuals take.” Without these treatments, Roth Weigel would die. “Our bodies require hormones for a lot of things beyond gender presentation,” she said, “just to have properly functioning organs, and for our bones to develop.”
Because of society’s insistence on adhering to the established gender norms, Roth Weigel is saddled with medical conditions directly caused by the hormonal impacts of the removal of her testes, such as early-onset osteoporosis at 33. “By trying to fix me, they broke me,” she said in her video.
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Roth Weigel is just one of many people put in harm’s way by gender-affirming care bans, despite conforming to the anti-trans movement’s gender standards.
Roth Weigel’s case underlines the absurdity and hypocrisy of the anti-trans movement, which insists that gender is a binary to which we all must conform and is willing to go so far as to imprison parents and doctors for attempting to access or provide gender-affirming care in order to enforce this conformity.
But without the very gender-affirming care anti-trans voters and politicians are seeking to ban, not only would Roth Weigel likely not be alive, she would not even be able to adhere to the rigid gender standards the anti-trans and anti-LGBTQ+ movements insist upon in the first place.
Nor would, for example, Justin T. Brown, a man who wrote candidly in 2022 of his teenage struggle with gynecomastia, a disorder in which men develop breasts. Thankfully, he came of age in an era before today’s politicians began their anti-trans crusades.
He was able to obtain breast-reduction surgery, a procedure he would now be legally barred from obtaining in several states in this country. “The care that I received is just one small example of the gender-affirming care that cisgender folks receive regularly,” he wrote in 2022. “We just call it ‘health care.'”
If Brown were growing up now, in many states he would be forced to develop into a man with breasts. If Roth Weigel were growing up now, she, too, would be forced in some states to run afoul of conservatives’ own gender demands because of their legislative overreach.
Is this what the anti-trans movement wants? Has nobody considered this?
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Actually, some of them apparently have thought about it. Tellingly, some states’ gender-affirming care bans provide exceptions for the wholly unnecessary surgeries sometimes performed on intersex children to make their bodies more accordant with traditional gender standards, as happened to Roth Weigel.
So it’s fine for a parent to endanger someone like Roth Weigel’s life and subject them to osteoporosis at 33 in the name of “normal” gender standards with medically unnecessary surgeries, but it’s not okay to perform medically necessary treatments for a transgender child, which almost never include surgery and are hence reversible? None of this makes an iota of sense.
In the name of harming the transgender people they are so obsessed with destroying, anti-trans activists and politicians also subject people like Roth Weigel and Brown to grievous harm or even death, all in the name of forcing their agenda — all while claiming to be conservatives in favor of “small government” that doesn’t intrude on people’s personal lives.
If you’re part of that movement, no one is saying you need to like or understand transgender people (at least, I’m not). You’re free to believe that their transgender identity is a choice, even though it’s not, and you’re free to be wrong and loud about it if you like. It’s a free country — for now, anyway.
But legislation is not an arrow you can aim at a bullseye. Instead, it flails out in all directions, towards all people.
You might want to consider that before the next time you step into a voting booth, because the next target of the legislative attack you vote for could be your own child or someone you love. And you’ll have no one to blame but yourself. Will it have been worth it?
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John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice and human interest topics.
This article originally appeared on YourTango