Advocates in Illinois say they hope to offer refuge and support to displaced transgender youth and their families.
Illinois is among more than a dozen states listed as part of an initiative announced earlier this year to create a "rainbow wall" of states offering legal refuge. The coordinated effort announced in May by the LGBTQ Victory Institute and other advocates came in response to recent actions taken in conservative states.
In Texas, for example, Gov. Greg Abbott has directed state agencies to consider placing transgender children in foster care, though a judge temporarily blocked such investigations. Multiple states have approved measures prohibiting gender-confirming health care treatments for transgender youth.
A number of medical institutions, however, have given their support to trans youth seeking care.
Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, the top-ranked children’s hospital in Illinois per U.S. News & World Report, recently drew attention as hospital leaders spoke against efforts to curtail children’s access to gender-confirming care.
In a statement, Dr. Robert Garofalo, director of Lurie’s gender program; Dr. Aron Janssen, Lurie’s vice chair of clinical affairs in the Pritzker Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health; and Dr. Norell Rosado, Lurie’s interim division head of child abuse pediatrics, said: “To the families who support and love their transgender children, we will continue to fight for you and for your families. Most importantly, to the transgender children and youth who are being targeted and bullied by these policymakers, you are seen, you are loved, you are heroes. You matter and we stand with you.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics has said research substantiates that children who identify as transgender and gender diverse before puberty “know their gender as clearly and as consistently as their developmentally equivalent peers who identify as cisgender and benefit from the same level of social acceptance.”
“This developmental approach to gender affirmation is in contrast to the outdated approach in which a child’s gender-diverse assertions are held as 'possibly true' until an arbitrary age (often after pubertal onset) when they can be considered valid, an approach that authors of the literature have termed ‘watchful waiting,’” the academy said in its policy statement.
The academy says the “watchful waiting” approach does not serve the child because “critical support is withheld.” Supportive involvement from parents and families is associated with better mental and physical health outcomes for those children, it said.
Researchers for The Trevor Project, a nonprofit focused on suicide prevention among LGBTQ youth, published a 2021 peer-reviewed study on the subject in the Journal of Adolescent Health. It found gender-confirming hormone therapy is significantly related to lower rates of depression, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts among transgender and nonbinary youth.
A poll conducted on the nonprofit's behalf by Morning Consult found that 85% of trans and nonbinary youth said recent debates about state laws restricting the rights of transgender people have negatively affected their mental health.
Another poll conducted by Morning Consult found a majority of adults agreed that transgender minors should have access to gender-confirming hormone therapy (55%) and puberty blockers (52%) if it is recommended by their doctor and supported by their parents.
The Associated Press contributed.
Contact Kelsey Watznauer at (309) 820-3254. Follow her on Twitter: @kwatznauer.