Department of Psychiatry Statement to Address Gov Abbott’s Declaration
On Feb 22nd, Governor Abbott of Texas issued a letter to state health authorities proclaiming that medical treatments for transgender adolescents – practices widely considered standard of care – would be investigated as “child abuse” (NYT).
As clinicians, researchers, and educators within the Division of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry at Georgetown University School of Medicine and MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, we vehemently reject these actions. Studies have repeatedly demonstrated that gender affirming care is beneficial to mental health; specifically, access to gender affirming care in adolescence is associated with improved mental health outcomes over waiting to access gender affirming hormone therapy until adulthood (Turban 2022, Almazan 2021). Gender affirming hormone therapy for trans youth is associated with a decrease in depressive symptoms and suicidality, and gender-affirming chest reconstruction with a decrease in chest dysphoria (Green 2021, de Vries 2011, Olson-Kennedy 2018).
Although it is uncertain what the implications of Gov. Abbott’s letter will be for state and local policies and practices, the harmful consequences of such baseless, transphobic rhetoric is certain. Transphobic comments not only dehumanize trans-identifying children, but they also have the potential to legitimize violence against LGBTQ+ individuals and families. In addition to creating a climate that fosters violence, Gov. Abbott’s comments negatively impact queer youth mental health. Similar to the negative effects that anti-black racism has on Black youth mental health (Argabright 2021), discrimination against trans and other queer youth harms youth mental health. It drives elevated rates of depression, anxiety, other mental health challenges, and tragically, suicide. (Clements-Nolle 2006, Arcelus 2016).
Our Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: As GUSOM/MGUH Division of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, we will continue to ally with the gender diverse patients and communities of all backgrounds that we serve. This commitment includes providing gender-affirming care to trans and other gender-diverse patients, providing mental health care to patients affected by transphobia, racism, and other forms of discrimination, and to advocating for our values in everything that we do. We urge others to support the following community-based organizations that provide care to LGBTQ+ communities.