Rich: Tennessee’s Attack on Transgender Children
House Bill 0578 could have devastating effects on the transgender community at Vanderbilt and in Tennessee as a whole.
April 10, 2022
Editor’s Note: This piece contains mention of suicide.
Right now, there are 14 anti-transgender bills up for consideration in Tennessee. While all legislation that curtails transgender rights is concerning, House Bill (HB) 0578 could be the most harmful anti-transgender bill considered in Tennessee yet. If passed, this bill will have devastating effects on the transgender community at Vanderbilt University and in Tennessee as a whole.
If HB 0578 passes, minors that wish to undergo gender affirmation surgery will be unable to do so unless their parent or guardian consents and unless three separate physicians recommend the surgery. Gender affirmation surgery includes surgical procedures that give transgender individuals physical attributes that align with their gender identities, such as chest and facial reconstruction and genital surgeries.
HB 0578 would also completely prohibit pre-pubescent minors from receiving gender affirmation surgery. Additionally, this bill would charge parents with child abuse if they help their child receive gender-affirming care. This means that parents who seek resources for their transgender kids may be charged with a felony.
As of March 24, HB 0578 was in the health committee with Tennessee’s state legislators. The bill’s sponsors include seven republican representatives, all of whom are cisgender and six of whom are men. They have no understanding of what being transgender means, what gender dysphoria feels like, or how to keep the trans community safe—they are not the people who should be making decisions for transgender youth in Tennessee.
Transgender youth face a devastatingly high risk of suicide nationally. The Trevor Project’s National Survey on LGBTQ Mental Health found that 42% of LGBTQ+ youth, including “more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth,” seriously considered attempting suicide in 2021. Nationally, the attempted suicide rate for transgender youth has always been disparately high. A 2018 study by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that 50.8% of transgender men surveyed and 29.9% of transgender women surveyed had attempted suicide.
Legislation like HB 0578 has real and devastating effects. Gender-affirming surgery is a necessity for the mental health of transgender youth. Researchers at Harvard Medical School conducted a study in 2021 that found a 44% “reduction in the odds of past-year suicidal ideation” in transgender individuals that had undergone one or more gender-affirming surgeries. If HB 0578 prohibits gender-affirming care, the transgender youth of Tennessee will face drastic mental health repercussions.
HB 0578 is just part of the recent wave of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation across the country—a pattern that is extremely alarming. We cannot escape homophobia and transphobia in Tennessee where legislation like HB 0578 is being seriously considered.
Vanderbilt is in no way immune to the effects of anti-transgender legislation.
If you’re cisgender like me, learn how to be the best ally to the transgender community at Vanderbilt. Regardless of if you have trans friends or not, it’s crucial that we create a community that resists the harmful legislation put forward by our state’s lawmakers right now.
If you hear anti-transgender rhetoric, speak up. Make it known that you will not stand for transphobia.
Vanderbilt’s Office of LGBTQI Life at Vanderbilt provides a series of resources for non-cisgender students and allies at Vanderbilt, including a webpage titled “Trans @ VU” which is a centralized database of information for non-cisgender students and allies at Vanderbilt. Trans @ VU includes a list of support opportunities offered by Vanderbilt and the greater Nashville community. These opportunities range from Vanderbilt-run affinity and support groups to two Nashville transgender organizations. Their site also provides information on navigating name changes and pronoun changes, trans medical health on campus, all-gender bathroom locations, and a general guide to navigating various aspects of being a non-cisgender Vanderbilt student.
HB 0578 sends a clear message to the transgender community at Vanderbilt and in Tennessee that their authentic selves are not wanted, included, protected, or loved. It’s our responsibility as Vanderbilt students to counter this narrative, to send love and support to our transgender or non-cisgender friends and to show that we do not share the transphobic beliefs of Tennessee’s lawmakers.