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Federal judge blocks Tennessee law banning gender-affirming care for transgender youth

Marianna Bacallao

A federal judge has temporarily blocked Tennessee’s law banning gender-affirming care for transgender minors. The law, which was set to take effect this weekend, would’ve banned transgender youth from accessing puberty blockers or hormone replacement therapy.

In Judge Eli Richardson’s 69-page ruling, he writes that criminalizing gender-affirming care for trans kids, but not for cisgender or intersex kids, “imposes disparate treatment on the basis of sex.”

The state argued that gender-affirming treatment does not improve mental health, but the judge’s ruling refutes this argument. Richardson writes that the defendant’s position relies solely on the testimony of a doctor “who seems never to have treated an individual for gender dysphoria.”

“But the weight of evidence in the record suggests the contrary — that treatment for gender dysphoria lowers rates of depression, suicide, and additional mental health issues faced by transgender individuals,” Richardson writes.

Plaintiff Samantha Williams agrees. She tells WPLN News that her daughter was withdrawn before she started puberty blockers.

“The longer we’ve been on this journey, the more comfortable she’s become,” Williams says. “When the fear of male puberty was taken away, that was a huge relief. I think that has been the most significant factor in her mental health right now is the fact that she is not dreading going through male puberty.”

Tennessee’s law is the sixth ban on gender-affirming care to be temporarily blocked by the courts. Federal judges issued similar rulings in Arkansas, Alabama and Florida.

The Tennessee Attorney General’s Office says it’s appealing the court’s decision.

Update: This story has been updated to include comment from the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office, and to clarify that that the injunction is temporary.  

Marianna Bacallao is a Cuban American journalist at WPLN and the new afternoon host for Nashville Public Radio. Before coming to Nashville, she was the morning host and general assignment reporter for WVIK Quad Cities NPR, where she hosted through a record-breaking wind storm that caused statewide power outages. A Georgia native, she was a contributor to Georgia Public Broadcasting during her undergrad years and served as editor-in-chief for Mercer University’s student newspaper.
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