In today’s ever-evolving world, parenting can be an exhilarating yet challenging journey. When you add the complexities of raising a transgender teenager into the mix, it becomes even more important to foster an environment of love, acceptance and understanding. As my family settles into our new home in Colorado — a state known for its progressive stance on transgender rights — I have come to appreciate the significance of gender-affirming care in the lives of transgender youth.

Colorado’s recent legislation to protect gender-affirming care is a testament to the state’s commitment to the well-being of its transgender residents. This inclusive approach recognizes that providing trans teenagers with the care they need is not only a matter of compassion but also one of medical necessity. I’d like to highlight two stories that shed light on this crucial issue to exemplify the importance of such policies and practices.

Earlier this year, Michigan faced a stark contrast in the state’s attitude toward trans youth compared to Colorado. Several Michigan lawmakers introduced bills targeting trans youth raised concerns about discrimination and access to essential health care. This hostile environment can have dire consequences for trans teens, who often already grapple with feelings of isolation and rejection. Contrastingly, Colorado’s inclusive approach seeks to empower trans youth by offering gender-affirming care, a lifeline that can make all the difference.

One of the most compelling examples of the impact of gender-affirming care can be seen in the recent decision by Colorado Children’s Hospital to halt gender-affirming surgeries on adult patients. While this decision sparked debate, it underscores the importance of ensuring access to gender-affirming care for trans individuals from a young age. Gender-affirming care is not merely a cosmetic procedure; it is a vital aspect of trans health care that addresses mental and physical well-being.

Supporting a trans teen through their journey is about more than just words of encouragement — it involves actively providing them with the resources they need to thrive. Gender-affirming care encompasses a range of interventions, from hormone therapy to mental health counseling, all designed to help a transgender individual align their physical appearance with their gender identity. This care can alleviate the distressing disconnect that many transgender teenagers experience and reduce the risk of mental health issues, including depression and anxiety.

The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health reported that 52% of transgender and nonbinary youth seriously considered suicide in the past year, and 20% reported attempting suicide.

Moreover, gender-affirming care fosters self-acceptance and confidence, enabling trans teens to focus on personal growth, education and building healthy relationships. It equips them with the tools to navigate a world that, at times, may be less than accepting. By investing in their well-being and offering gender-affirming care, we not only support their emotional and psychological health but also promote their ability to become contributing members of society.

As my family embraces the welcoming environment of Colorado, it’s crucial to acknowledge the significance of progressive legislation and inclusive health care practices. Our trans youth deserve to grow up in a world where they are accepted for who they are and have access to the care they need.

The stories from Michigan and Colorado serve as powerful reminders of the consequences of policy decisions. In one state, they can reinforce discrimination and put vulnerable lives at risk, while in another, they can affirm the importance of compassion, understanding and gender-affirming care.

Ultimately, parenting a transgender teenager is a journey filled with love, hope and advocacy. In Colorado, we are fortunate to be part of a community that values the well-being of all its residents, regardless of their gender identity. By championing gender-affirming care, Coloradans can provide our transgender teenagers with the support and resources they need to flourish, allowing them to embrace their true selves and fulfill their potential. This journey may be challenging, but it is a path toward a brighter and more inclusive future for all of us.

Kevin McFatridge and his family recently relocated to Colorado from Michigan and is the board president for Stand with Trans.

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Kevin McFatridge and his family recently relocated to Colorado from Michigan and is the board president for Stand with Trans.