A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Tanner Mobley: Dear Kentucky lawmakers, please fix real issues, stop senseless attacks on LGBTQ youth

Kentuckians are struggling to get by. Many of us are living paycheck to paycheck, some are having to ration insulin, and others are trying to climb their way out of mountains of medical or student loan debt. Our public schools across the state are severely understaffed and underfunded; some entire counties don’t have access to clean drinking water. And just this year, Kentucky was named the “worst state to retire” based on affordability, quality of life, and health care.

Yet, in the face of such real and pressing issues, some lawmakers in our state have worked overtime raising divisive non-issues — namely by pushing state legislation that targets LGBTQ Kentuckians. So far this year, advocates have tracked at least a dozen anti-LGBTQ bills making their way through the Kentucky legislature, with most bills aimed at restricting the rights of transgender and nonbinary young people.

As a Kentuckian, watching our state lawmakers waste so much valuable time, resources, and taxpayer dollars on pushing anti-LGBTQ bills and rhetoric is not only heartbreaking, but enraging. It is also a disservice and insult to every hardworking Kentuckian who is working to make ends meet, as our state legislators sidestep addressing the real issues at hand.

Tanner Mobley

Of the dozen or so anti-LGBTQ bills being considered in the legislature, one of the most egregious and harmful pieces of legislation, House Bill 470, aims to deny access to medically necessary care for transgender and nonbinary young people and criminalize doctors who provide this best-practice care.

Even if you aren’t familiar with trans issues, I hope we can all agree that everyone should have access to the health care that is essential to them — and no one should be denied access or discriminated against for seeking care either. Our country’s leading medical and mental health associations support access to this evidence-based, age-appropriate care, including the American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, and American Psychiatric Association. Leading experts agree: it is essential for young transgender people to have access to safe and supportive healthcare.

And data on this type of care further underscores its potential. According to peer-reviewed research at The Trevor Project, a leading suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ young people, having access to gender-affirming hormone therapy is a potentially life-saving intervention for transgender and nonbinary youth that is associated with positive mental health outcomes, including showing promise for reducing suicide risk.

On the other hand, efforts to restrict health care for transgender and nonbinary youth — just like what we’re witnessing right now in the Kentucky legislature — have had a negative impact on the mental health of LGBTQ young people. Recent polling revealed that 86% of transgender and nonbinary youth say recent debates about state laws restricting the rights of transgender people have negatively impacted their mental health. Alarmingly, nearly 1 in 3 transgender and nonbinary youth reported not feeling safe to go to the doctor or hospital when they were sick or injured as a result of these policies and debates in the last year.

As Kentucky lawmakers continue working to deny an already marginalized group of young people access to essential health care, I strongly urge them to reconsider the weight of both their words and actions.

We shouldn’t have to spend so much time worrying about how our own elected officials are going to act and how it impacts some of the most vulnerable Kentuckians in our state.

Instead, we should all be working together across aisles, zip codes, and generations to create a better Kentucky where everyone can live and thrive, regardless of their identity. Our lawmakers should be spearheading efforts that prioritize job creation, educational improvement, fixing our infrastructure, and protecting the rights of all Kentuckians — including transgender and nonbinary youth.

A stronger, more prosperous Commonwealth that benefits everyone is possible, but a heavy responsibility lies on our own leaders to readjust their priorities to get us there.

Tanner Mobley is a community organizer and lifelong Kentuckian. He grew up in Bullitt County before graduating from the University of Louisville in 2017. He currently works as an Advocacy Campaign Associate for The Trevor Project and resides in Louisville with his partner.

If you or someone you know needs help or support, The Trevor Project’s trained crisis counselors are available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386, via chat at TheTrevorProject.org/Get-Help, or by texting START to 678678.

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  1. Shane says:

    Nothing is more important than protecting children.

  2. Jamie says:

    The same pediatric associations that are pushing for unnecessary COVID-19 therapies for juveniles are pushing for conversion surgeries and hormones for children? No way! (please read my sarcasm) There may be very scarce and single instances (like those individuals actually born with both sets of reproductive organs) where such surgeries are required. But that’s not who is pushing these harmful procedures on juveniles.

    Let me quote someone who is observed as polarizing, but has yet to be factually disputed on this topic, Ben Shapiro; “Transgender activists make an objective claim about reality based on subjective internal feelings”.

    Mr. Mobley, you mischaracterize the transitioning procedures and administered hormones as “healthcare”, just as abortion activists mischaracterize abortions as “healthcare”. In both instances, children are being irreversibly harmed. Hardly healthcare.

    Protecting our children (the most innocent among us) from harm should be a basic individual cause, much less something our government prioritizes.

  3. T Bartels says:

    There is absolutely nothing more important than protecting children, and one of the most important ways is to protect them from making bad decisions. The bill in question would restrict children from making a potentially disasterus decision before they are fully capable of making that decision. That’s a good thing!

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