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El Pasoans concerned about trans mental health as Texas preps for gender-care ban

EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- On September 1, a new law is supposed to take effect in the state of Texas. Senate Bill 14 would legally end gender-affirming care for transgender youth under age 18 across Texas.

SB-14, in it's current format, would prohibit health care providers and doctors from performing surgeries for mastectomy, prescribing substances or removing any body part/tissue that would support transgender procedures on people under age 18.

In El Paso, mental health community and LGBTQ+ individuals are concerned about the impact of the bill — lawsuits against it do not stop it from moving forward. Currently, the bill text doesn't have any language limiting mental health support.

Mental health professionals who have spoken with ABC-7 have raised concerns about how removing this care will effect the mental health of transgender youth — which could decline as they are unable to continue with treatment they feel is appropriate.

Some mentioned concerns about negative mental health in the trans community, stemming from the lack of support.

At the City Council meeting on Tuesday, a number of speakers discussed the concerns they have about the bill — and worries for how it will affect the transgender community after the bill. Some speakers called for more vocal support, and raised questions about potential legal actions the city could take if SB-14 takes effect.

The ACLU of Texas has joined into a lawsuit against this bill, known as Loe v. Texas. Five families in the state, three medical providers and other transgender groups sued the state, the Texas Attorney General, the state's Health & Human Services Commission and the state's Medical Board.

The suit claims the bill is unconstitutional under the state's own Constitution — as it violates parents' rights to provide medical care to children. It further claims it discriminates against the transgender youth and violates the rights of healthcare providers by interfering with their ability to practice.

When the passage of the bill was still pending, the Republican Party of Texas called for the passage of the law -- calling it a "top legislative priority" for the state party. "We must protect Texas children from the left-wing extremists who would chemically castrate and surgically mutilate them for life."

In a separate statement, the Chair of the state's Republican Party said the bill reflected the work of GOP members for years to protect children from "medical butchers and greedy pharmaceutical interests." It specifically stated that the bill blocks puberty blockers; cross-sex hormones and surgical procedures for medical procedures.

While there is research focusing on mental health and LGBTQ+ youth, experts I spoke with said that depression or other concerns can exist separately from questions about gender, sexuality or body.

According to the Trever Project, an anti-suicide group focused on the LGBTQ+ community, researches mental health each year.

In 2022, researchers found that in Texas, 47% had seriously considered suicide in the past year.

Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control says last year more than 29% of poor mental health, and 1 in 5 considered attempting suicide. Other research by the agency says that youth between 10 and 24 years have a suicide of roughly 15%, and the second leading cause of death for that age group. 

Many LGBTQ+ youth reported anxiety, depression — and a desire to get mental health care, according to the Trevor Project. However, 68% — include transgender and nonbinary individuals — reported they were not able to get it.

Avery Martinez covers mental health in the Borderland as part of ABC-7’s Be Mindful initiative. He is also a Report for America corps member. RFA places talented, emerging journalists in newsrooms like ABC-7’s to report on under-covered issues and communities. Report for America is an initiative of The GroundTruth Project, an award-winning nonprofit journalism organization dedicated to rebuilding journalism from the ground up.

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