News (USA)

Trans teens sue Montana for access to gender-affirming care

: A supporter holds a sign that says "Support Trans Youth"
Photo: Shutterstock

Along with their parents and two health care providers, two trans teens are suing the state of Montana for its recent ban on gender-affirming care for trans youth.

The plaintiffs argue that the law, S.B. 99, violates the state constitution, which guarantees the right to equal protection, the right of parents to direct the upbringing of their children, the right to dignity, and the right to seek healthcare.

The lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of the plaintiffs by the ACLU of Montana and Lambda Legal, also argues the unjust nature of the law because it bans gender-affirming care for trans youth but allows cisgender youth access to the same medical care for other reasons.

“The Act is so damaging to the health and well-being of transgender adolescents that some of these adolescents’ families with the resources to do so have taken steps to uproot their entire lives to move out of Montana in light of the Act,” the lawsuit states.

“For many more, however, that devastating option is not available, so these families and youth will have no choice but to remain and endure the harms that the Act inflicts.”

The litigants include 16-year-old trans girl Scarlet, along with her parents Jessica and Ewout van Garderen; 15-year-old trans boy Phoebe, along with his parents Molly and Paul Cross; Dr. Katy Mistretta of Bozeman Creek Family Health; and Dr. Juanita Hodax of Community Medical Center.

“I will never understand why my representatives are working to strip me of my rights and the rights of other transgender kids,” said Phoebe Cross in a statement. “Just living as a trans teenager is difficult enough, the last thing me and my peers need is to have our rights taken away. There were many things I hoped my elected officials would achieve, this regression in human rights is not one of those things. The blatant disrespect for my humanity and existence is deeply unsettling.”

Jessica van Garderen added, “It is mentally and physically painful to feel like you are trapped in the wrong body. Going through puberty for the wrong sex is like having your body betray you on a daily basis. The only treatment we have found to be effective and give our daughter hope again is hormone therapy. The difference we have experienced is night and day and there is no going back. Taking away this crucial medical care is inhumane and a violation of our rights. We will fight this law for our daughter and every other family whose rights are being trampled.”

The legislation was signed in April by Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte and will go into effect on October 1. The state became the center of national discourse after the anti-trans Republicans banned trans Montana state Rep. Zooey Zephyr (D) from the state house floor for speaking out against the bill.

Zephyr accused Republicans of having “blood on your hands” for supporting the bill. They then voted to prevent her from entering the chamber after she raised an inactive microphone toward protestors in the state house gallery who chanted, “Let her speak!” The protestors were later arrested.

Zephyr was forced to vote remotely on bills while sitting on a bench outside the chamber in the state Capitol building. She also filed a lawsuit, but the judge declined to grant her relief from the Republicans’ censure order.

She would remain barred from the state house floor until the legislative session was adjourned. It has since ended, and she made a triumphant return.

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