Puberty Blockers — Like Those Just Banned In Arkansas — Would Have Changed My Life

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Nonbinary person outdoors looking at camera

I stood in my bedroom alone in the middle of the night under the bright yellow light of a naked bulb. I looked down at my newfound breasts and tried not to cry.

I could have sworn they weren't there yesterday, that they had sprung up overnight.

I was a kid from the country and carried a pocket knife everywhere but school, so I pulled out my pocket knife and pressed it to the pale skin above the small mound on my chest.

Just before the little metal blade pierced my skin, I stopped. I knew how much pressure it took to break the skin and that if I cut myself and there was blood, my mother would be angry.

I put the knife away and pulled out an ace bandage I'd secreted away earlier that day. I wrapped it around my chest, tighter and tighter until there were no more bumps to see. But the wrap made me feel warm and made it hard to breathe.

After a few hours of drawing slow, low breaths on my bed, I took it off. That was when I decided to slouch — a habit doctors would attribute to me being "tall" for my age and assigned gender, but I always knew the real reason: I didn't want breasts.

I didn't want to be a soft, feminine thing like my mom or sister. I wanted to be rough and tough and tear out the knees of my jeans while playing. I didn't have words for this at the time, but I knew my skin crawled when I was told to act like a lady.

If I had had the opportunity to take puberty blockers, I could have avoided all this mental and physical pain  — including lifelong back problems that linger to this day.

And, truly, that's all advocates of gender-affirming care for trans children are asking for: an opportunity for trans children to be seen, understood, and affirmed in their transness.

RELATED: Yes, I'm Transgender (And I Need Body Positivity, Too)

Right now according to the ACLU, there are 93 anti-trans bills being proposed in house legislatures across the U.S.

The most prominent one was passed in Arkansas, where legislators approved a bill that would "ban access to gender-affirming care for transgender minors, including reversible puberty blockers and hormones."

The bill (HB 1570) was ultimately vetoed by Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson citing concerns over government overreach and legislative interference between parents, physicians, and children.

However, the Arkansas House and Senate voted to override the veto, resulting in transition care for transgender children being banned in the state.

Puberty blockers are just one aspect of an onslaught of attacks against transgender people in the US, but they're a particularly revelatory one given the discrepancy around their use.

Cisgender children already use puberty blockers for many reasons — and their use has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for decades.

They're often prescribed to children who start puberty at a very young age, called "precocious puberty," but anecdotally, people have reported that they're also used by parents who are worried their children will be too short.

So why the fuss over some children using puberty blockers and not others?

It's hard not to see it as anything but an overt and coordinated attack aimed at doing permanent damage to or killing trans people.

RELATED: Why Misgendering Me Makes Me Feel Like My Body Is A Problem

And make no mistake, that’s exactly what these bills are geared to do — to shift public opinion to an antagonist stance in regard to trans people and to make life more difficult for trans people as we seek to live our lives.

We already know that trans and nonbinary youth are particularly vulnerable in our society.

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According to The Trevor Project’s 2020 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, more than half of trans and nonbinary youth have “seriously considered suicide.”

A 2020 American Academy of Pediatrics study found that trans youth with access to puberty-blocking hormones were a third as likely to contemplate suicide compared to those without access.

It is not a leap to say that puberty blockers are a life-saving measure.

Puberty blockers are like a kind of pause button that allows trans and nonbinary youth to temporarily halt the development of secondary sex characteristics including developing breasts, muscular concentration, body hair, and more.

While opponents to puberty blockers often cite concerns over detransitioning, when someone who has started to transition decides to reverse the process, one study found that less than 2% of adolescents who hit puberty and started blockers ultimately decided to stop treatment.

Furthermore, if youth stop using puberty blockers, puberty will continue as if the medication were never utilized.

Despite claims of wanting to help them, the actual way to protect trans children, as the AAP study illustrates, is to provide them with access to gender-affirming healthcare.

Puberty blockers would have changed my life, I have no doubt about it.

At a time when my body was changing in ways I didn’t want nor understand, puberty blockers would have given me something every child deserves: a choice.

RELATED: What Being Transgender Feels Like

S.E. Fleenor writes novels and articles centering on queer identities, feminism, pop culture, and literature. Their work appears in The Independent, Buzzfeed Reader, Vice, them.us, and SYFY WIRE, among others.