I couldn’t stop thinking about a short notice I read in my local newspaper and wanted to share this in a post.

“Runaway youth in Washington State will now have the option to defer shelters and host homes from contacting their parents if they leave home to seek gender affirming or reproductive health care under Senate Bill 5599.” The state’s House and Senate passed the bill and sent it on to Governor Inslee who signed it.

Definitions Might Be Helpful

  • Transgender individuals are persons whose gender identity does not align with the sex they were assigned at birth.
  • Persons who identify as non-binary are people whose gender identity does not align with a specific gender or they identify with both genders.

Some of the early interventions are social interventions, calling the individual by their preferred name or pronouns, followed by seeking support from mental health professionals, and then medical interventions such as chest binders, puberty blockers, hormone therapy, and surgery.

For and Against the Bill

As you can imagine, there were as many people vigorously opposed as there were in favor.

  • Some Arguments In Favor: There are estimates that as many as 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ+ and that as many as 30,000 trans youth live in Washington. Accessing gender-affirming care is claimed to lower rates of adverse mental health outcomes, build self-esteem, and improve overall quality of life for trans and gender-diverse youth.
  • Some Opposing Arguments: Parents may be desperately searching for these children. There shouldn’t be a situation where a parent is not notified about the location of a child when the parent has not harmed them. There is not enough data to support the claims made regarding lowering suicide rates of trans and gender-diverse youth.

It’s the first sentence of the opposition that I can’t set aside – no matter whether you are pro or con. Having been the mother of teenagers, I can’t imagine what parents might be going through.

The Canaries

Like the canaries sent into the mines as a warning, are teenagers being forfeited in these unsettled times? After mandatory lockdowns during Covid, school districts are finding high absentee rates. Kids are habituated to social media like their parents and are making companies billions off their personal data. A brash video posted when you’re fourteen will follow you forever.

Other Voices Worth Considering

  • From the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). “As a traditionally underserved population that faces numerous health disparities, youth who identify as transgender and gender diverse (TGD) and their families are increasingly presenting to pediatric providers for education, care, and referrals. The need for more formal training, standardized treatment, and research on safety and medical outcomes often leaves providers feeling ill equipped to support and care for patients that identify as TGD and their families.”
  • Teen suicide is horrifying, but governmental data shows this: Between 2007 and 2018, the national suicide rate among persons aged 10–24 increased 57.4%. It was one of the leading causes of death of teenagers.
  • The federal government pledged to end homelessness for youth by the year 2020. However, it’s reported that on a single night over 45,200 unaccompanied children and youth are without a home – over half of them without any shelter. Nationally, less than 4,200 beds are provided for these vulnerable children, meaning that more than 90% of youth are left without shelter.
  • Youth homelessness is often rooted in family conflict. Other contributing factors include: poverty, food and housing insecurity, racial disparities, and mental health and substance use disorders. Young people who have had involvement with the child welfare and juvenile justice systems are also more likely to become homeless.
  • Some experts, mental health professionals, (and parents) contend that today’s teenagers are being unduly influenced by social media, peer pressure and bullying, and may change their minds later about many issues, including care. Maybe this is the next logical step to becoming the person you feel you truly are? Or maybe this is something that is in the saddest sense of the word a “trend.”
  • Meanwhile, major retail clothing outlets plus Amazon, eBay and Etsy are selling chest binders for kids and marketing new trans clothing lines (some have backfired as at Target). And, of course, pharma companies are always eager to “help.”

Peeling an Onion – Layer by Layer

For me, however well-intentioned this law might be, it is like many other surface “solutions” that avoid a more complex problem. Like Obama Care instead of Medicare for All. As a country, we seem unable or unwilling in this age of disharmony and discontent to treat whatever the issue like an onion and peel it, layer by layer. We seem to prefer to take the expedient route, yielding to those in power, or those with the loudest or previously silenced voices in support of a current cause. It’s not about the cause, it’s about the rush to do something.

Step One. . .

I searched for but could not find the suggestion that Step One of this bill should be to bring the kids and their parents together immediately with real professional, thoughtful help.

If I were a runaway teenager and the shelter or host family said my parents didn’t have to know where I was, I’d feel like the “law was on my side” and my parents were in the “wrong.” What would keep kids who have run away for other reasons from taking advantage of this program? State-provided, controversial, possible long-term effects of the trans processes without the parents’ knowledge or permission seems ripe for a legal challenge. How long can a teenager be hidden? And, who pays for this? The parents or the state?

If Washington State wants to put their money where their signed bills are, they should hire an abundance of well-trained professionals who can provide information, respect, and compassion for both the kids and their parents, to help them work it out together as a family.

P.S. Unlike my regular posts, other than the top drawing, illustrations didn’t seem appropriate. I put a few in and took them out.

P.P.S. On July 15th, I’ll be starting a five-part memoir that I hope you’ll enjoy. And there’ll be pictures!

You can click on this link to read the Final Bill Report: S.E SBR FBR 23.pdf.