Oregon takes a huge step in the right direction when it comes to trans teen rights

Puberty is one of the most confusing and difficult times in any teen’s life, but it’s doubly so for trans teens. Its mess of biological sex-based physical and hormonal changes warp your voice, body, and feelings, but if a child identifies as trans before puberty and already wishes to change their appearance, puberty is a nightmare, which makes Oregon’s new Medicaid coverage for trans teens so important.

The state is one of a handful that now covers puberty suppression, which allows kids to delay the effects of puberty if they want to change their gender. Since puberty is the time when outward manifestations of sex appear, kids who are questioning or are set on their new gender identity can hold off on its onset. This doesn’t mean that they have to go through with a full transition — puberty suppression is just a means of giving a child more time to work out the nuances of their gender, and they can then stop and go through puberty in their current body or work out a timeline for later hormonal transition.

The big catch with puberty suppression has always been its price: NPR’s report on the new Medicaid coverage states that the cost of three months of suppression medication is $7,500. At that price point, the treatment isn’t feasible for many families, but by extending Medicaid coverage to the process, the hope is to grant trans teens as peaceful a puberty as possible. The ultimate goal is to provide gender-dysphoric children a safe way to explore themselves, something that has historically been difficult and costly in more ways than one.

The medical director of a group vouching for Medicaid coverage of transgender treatments, Dr. Ariel Smits underlined the real importance of making puberty suppression more easily accessible: “People with gender dysphoria that did not receive treatment had a much higher rate of hospitalizations or ER visits or doctors visits for depression and anxiety, and they had a pretty significantly high suicide rate.” When stories like Leelah Alcorn’s are all too common and the struggle for trans rights and recognition is still very much ongoing, policies like Oregon’s are that much more important. We’re just starting to receive real visibility and understanding of LGBTQ issues in the world; here’s hoping more states follow Oregon’s lead, and give more trans teens the option to lead happy and healthy lives.

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