The Value of Gender-Affirming Care

By Nathan Shurts (he/him), 17 years old, editor

November 15, 2023

Have you heard about Transgender Awareness Week? The week leading up to Transgender Day of Remembrance (November 20), a day meant to honor trans lives lost to violence, is a time to increase visibility and awareness about transgender people, as well as to celebrate pride and advocacy for trans people.

Unfortunately, progress has been slow at times. One major area that has come under attack is gender-affirming care, which remains restricted or banned in some parts of the U.S. When it comes to transgender awareness, learning about gender-affirming care is a good start. For starters, it includes services that support teens both physically and emotionally to align with their gender identity.

In honor of Trans Awareness Week, I’ll discuss why gender-affirming care is so important for trans people.

So what is gender affirming care?

You may be wondering what exactly it is. is Gender-affirming care? Well, it encompasses a wide variety of medical and therapeutic services aimed at supporting physical, mental and emotional health. The American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association support evidence-based, age-appropriate gender-affirming care, in consultation with professionals.

In essence, it helps transgender people, who identify as a different gender than the one they were assigned at birth, feel comfortable in their own skin. This can be crucial to your well-being. “Everyone deserves to feel comfortable when they look in the mirror,” says Ajay (her), 17, from Columbus, Ohio. “At the very least, everyone deserves to not hate the body they’re in.”

Unfortunately, many of these treatments have come under fire in recent years, and have even been banned in much of the U.S. “Three in ten trans youth ages 13 to 17 live in states that have passed bans on gender-affirming care,” according to the Human Rights Campaign.

Fighting gender dysphoria

The negative effects of restricting gender-affirming attention are significant. Trans teens often suffer from gender dysphoria (where there is a disconnect between the gender assigned at birth and what they feel is their true gender) to the point that they may begin to experience depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.

Gender-affirming care is medical treatment, and denying someone treatment based on their gender identity is a violation of their human rights. “Gender-affirming care can mean the difference between life and death, especially for people who come from unsupportive homes or families,” says Katie (she/her), 19, from Boston. “It is imperative that trans youth have an outlet for relief.”

Essential for me

Trans teens really benefit from gender-affirming attention, in different ways. “I received testosterone hormone therapy at age 17 and had a bilateral mastectomy at age 19,” says Matt (he), 19, from Buffalo, New York. Matt specifically explains how these interventions helped him. “Taking testosterone was essential for me to feel comfortable with myself, and it also allowed me to finish my senior year of high school without harassment from other students, since I passed as a cisgender man,” he says. “For the first two years of high school without him, I was only able to transition socially and I really had to struggle. The top surgery made a huge difference in my confidence and allowed me to not be limited by having to wear a binder every day. If I had not received this care, I would not be here today and I would not have been able to succeed in any of the areas of my life that I thrive in today.”

These sentiments are echoed by other trans youth. “Gender-affirming attention makes me feel like there is hope for me in the world,” says Bina(she/they), 20, from Brooklyn, New York. “Without the attention I have received, I doubt I would have made it through adolescence. Medical intervention was vital in allowing me to build a life worth living.”

Be an ally

Transgender Awareness Week is a time for reflection. We have made some progress in protecting the rights and freedoms of LGBTQ+ people, but we still have a long way to go, and gender-affirming care for transgender teens is essential.

How can you celebrate Trans Awareness Week? Even if you don’t identify as trans, be an ally. Support people you know who are going through or considering gender-affirming care, and continue to educate yourself about the issues so you can stay informed. Spread awareness about what gender-affirming care really is and don’t let misinformation harm the people you care about.

Don’t just be aware, be an advocate!

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