The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Editorial | We must be advocates for gender-affirming care

People deserve to tell their stories, but it shouldn’t threaten people’s health care.
Grace Smith
Eleventh-grader Julian Erwin cheers during a transgender rights protest at the Pentacrest on Friday, March 11, 2022. Erwin chose to participate in the walkout because he is a part of the transgender community. “It’s part of my responsibility to support my community.”

As tensions rise on the topic of gender-affirming care in Iowa, it is important to remember that limiting access to this type of care isn’t going to solve problems. 

While this is clear to major medical associations who oppose bans on gender-affirming care, many people who have detransitioned advocate for the end of care to minors. 

The experiences of detransitioners should be recognized, but it should not be at the cost of gender-affirming care. For each rallying detransitioner, there are testimonials to be found from transgender individuals talking about how gender-affirming care saved their lives. 

Chloe Cole, a person who detransitioned, identifies as a former trans kid given her experiences with puberty blockers, testosterone therapy, and a double mastectomy.

If Cole’s experience is based around mistreatment from doctors — as evidenced by her legal complaint against health care company Kaiser Permanente  —  then we should be advocating for better medical practices, not for those medical practices to cease.

She’s spoken in front of Congress, is invoked in name by a Wyoming bill called Chloe’s Law which limits gender-affirming care for minors, and spoke at the Iowa Memorial Union on Oct. 16 on an invite from the University of Iowa Young Americans for Freedom chapter. 

Because of the event with her speaking engagement at the IMU, the DI Editorial Board has looked into Chloe Cole’s ideology and spoken experience as someone who detransitioned. 

Cole’s experiences with the medical system are tragic and should not happen to anyone. However, Cole’s solution to this problem is to stop gender-affirming care access for all minors, and erase transgender individuals’ testimonials on the benefits when, in reality, her situation tells us we need to be talking about it more than ever. 

While we try to empathize with her story, we find that we cannot endorse her ideology. 

The DI Editorial Board recognizes and wholeheartedly affirms the difference between sex and gender. A person can be assigned a gender at birth based on their biological characteristics that do not reflect the gender they identify with. 

Sex can be defined by a person’s genitals while gender is based on internal perception and external presentation. Gender is tied to a natural inclination to a person’s identity and can sometimes change over time. 

RELATED: Editorial | UI must address transphobic speech on campus 

Gender is a social construct that we interact with in society every day. For those whose gender and sex match, it’s easy to not think about it. A gendered bathroom is just a gendered bathroom, splitting into a boy’s or girl’s team is easy, and the clothes worn are comfortable. 

But when someone’s gender and sex don’t match, it creates confusion and discomfort that can turn into gender dysphoria. 

Gender dysphoria is a condition diagnosed by medical professionals and can often open up discussions regarding gender-affirming care. 

Gender-affirming care’s history stems back to the 20th century, but many people still aren’t informed about the variety of options and the impact this care has on transgender individuals. 

For example, there is fear around puberty blockers and what damage they may do to children because doctors will often recommend them as a first medical transition step.

However, puberty blockers are often suggested because they are reversible and the changes of puberty they stopped will occur once an individual goes off of them, according to the Mayo Clinic.  

The laws that affect gender-affirming care are being written by those who are uninformed and those who would rather cling to prejudice than listen to transgender individuals’ stories about how gender-affirming care saved their lives. 

While those who have received ill treatment by the medical system do deserve to tell their stories and be supported. They don’t deserve to take away treatment from those who need it and have found fulfilling lives with it.  

A fact sheet from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services indicates that hormone therapy is used in early adolescence with surgical interventions and is usually not used until adulthood. Surgery is only offered on a case-by-case basis if deemed necessary. 

Surgical interventions — such as facial or chest surgery — require minors to have letters of recommendation from health care providers such as a psychologist or psychiatrist.

These standards show there is a framework in place to protect children and prioritize their best interests. 

A 2021 study from the Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences found the majority of its 237 detransitioner sample size to have medically transitioned in their 20s. The average age for medical transition was 20 for females and 26 for males. Only a quarter of respondents medically transitioned before 18. 

Sometimes, the best interest for people is to detransition. 

For the 237 detransitioners in the 2021 study, the majority causes for detransition were related to health concerns and persistent gender dysphoria that wasn’t helped by transition. Forty-three percent of participants also listed a change in political views as a reason for detransitioning. 

Another study looking into why people detransition found that 82.5 percent of detransitioners stated their decision was influenced by family pressure and social stigma. 

Researchers involved in the study emphasized the importance of doctors’ awareness of external pressures, how to react to them, and the possibility of patients seeking gender-affirming care in the future. 

Regardless of where an individual stands in their transition process, it is important to have access to gender affirming care information and health care. 

Banning gender-affirming care for all minors should not be the solution to the concerns voiced by Cole and their followers. 

Editorials reflect the majority opinion of the DI Editorial Board and not the opinion of the publisher, Student Publications Inc., or the University of Iowa. The DI Editorial Board consists of Sabine Martin, Parker Jones, Archie Wagner, Evan Weidl, Jordan Coates, and Marandah Mangra-Dutcher.


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About the Contributor
Grace Smith
Grace Smith, Senior photojournalist and filmmaker
Grace Smith is a fourth-year student at the University of Iowa double majoring in Journalism and Cinematic Arts. In her four years at The Daily Iowan, she has held the roles of photo editor, managing summer editor, and visual storyteller. Outside of The Daily Iowan, Grace has held an internship at The Denver Post and pursued freelance assignments for the Cedar Rapids Gazette and the Des Moines Register.