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World News | Families with transgender children increasingly forced to seek needed care abroad

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CHICAGO, July 10 (AP) — One early morning in June, Flower Nichols and her mother set off from their home in Indianapolis, Indianapolis, to explore Chicago.

The family was determined to make the trip feel like an adventure in the city, even though that wasn’t the main purpose of the trip.

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The next afternoon, Flower and Jennilyn Nichols went to the University of Chicago to see a doctor to see if Flower, 11, could be kept on puberty blockers.

On April 5, Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb signed a law banning transgender minors from receiving puberty blockers and other hormone treatments, even with parental approval and a doctor’s recommendation. Find a healthcare provider outside of Indiana.

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At least 20 states have enacted laws limiting or prohibiting gender-affirming care for transgender minors, though most have been embroiled in legal challenges. Such treatments became available to children and teens across the United States more than a decade ago and are endorsed by major medical societies.

Opponents of gender-affirming care say there is no hard evidence for the purported benefits, citing widely discredited research, and saying children should not make life-altering decisions they may regret. Advocates and families affected by the recent law say such care is critical for transgender children.

On June 16, a federal judge blocked parts of Indiana’s law from going into effect on July 1. But many patients are still scrambling to continue treatment.

Jennilyn Nichols hopes their trip to Chicago will be filled with happy memories. They’ll explore the Museum of Science and Industry and stop at a beloved candy store on the way home.

She decides to maintain a sense of normalcy — well, that’s what families do.

——

Families in Indiana, Mississippi and other states are enacting new laws that implicitly and sometimes directly accuse parents of child abuse in favor of their children’s access to health care.

Some transgender children and teens said the bans send a message that they cannot be themselves. This leaves parents seeking out-of-state medical services to help their children thrive.

“What transgender young people need is what all young people need: They need love and support, and they need unconditional respect,” said Robert Marx, an assistant professor of child and adolescent development at San Jose State University.

Marx researched support systems for LGBTQ+ and trans people aged 13 to 25. “They need to feel included and part of the family.”

Families in Indiana turned to GEKCO, a support organization founded by Krisztina Inskeep, whose adult son is transgender.

“I think most parents want the best for their kids,” Inskip said. “It’s fairly new for people to think that gender isn’t just binary, and that your children aren’t just what they were born to think they were.”

Most parents’ perceptions don’t quite fit the extremes of outright support or rejection of a child’s identity, Marx said.

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On June 13, Flower and Jennilyn left Indianapolis with a plan of care at Indiana University Riley Children’s Hospital, the state’s only gender clinic. The family’s decision to start taking puberty blockers two years ago was not taken lightly.

Jenny Lynn recalls asking her daughter early on whether her gender expression was permanent. Eventually, she listened to her daughter and found that there was no doubt about it.

The conversations between Flower and her mother are often surprisingly candid.

“Before I knew you, before I was on this journey with you,” Jennilyn told her, “I wouldn’t have imagined that a child would know he was trans, or that a child would come out that way. “

Now, Jenny Lynn says her concerns have shifted to Flower’s spelling skills, or how she’ll cope with the infatuation, and she doesn’t think her early anxieties were justified.

Flower said she makes medical decisions with her parents because “of course, they can’t decide which medications I take.”

“At the same time, you can’t choose a drug that we can’t pay for, or, you know, that might harm you,” Jenny Lynn replied.

— In Mississippi, a gender-affirming care ban became state law on Feb. 28, prompting a father and his transgender son to leave the state in late July so the teen could seek health care in Virginia.

Ray Walker, a 17-year-old overachiever, lives in suburban Jackson with his mother, Katie Rives. His parents are divorced, but his father also lives in the area.

When Republican Gov. Tate Reeves of Mississippi signed into law banning hormone therapy for anyone under the age of 18, he accused “radicals” of promoting a “sick and twisted ideology that tries to convince our children that they were born in the wrong body”.

As the availability of gender-affirming care became scarce and was later outlawed, Walker’s father declined interviews and accepted a job in Virginia. However, Reeves lives in Mississippi with her two young children.

Walker’s harrowing memories of entering adolescence at age 12 still haunt her. “My body couldn’t handle what happened,” he said.

After a year-long evaluation process, followed by puberty blockers and hormone shots, Walker said his self-image has improved. Then came the ban.

“Mississippi is my home, but there are a lot of conflicting feelings when your home actively tells you it doesn’t want you to live in it,” Walker said.

The family has no choice. As Walker’s move date looms, Reeves enjoys the time they share. She said she still feels lucky because not all families can afford to travel abroad.

“We knew it was an incredible privilege,” Reeves said.

——

Flower’s favorite activities have less to do with politics than her soon-to-be teenage status. She is a Girl Scout and enjoys hunting Pokémon with her 7-year-old brother Parker. Over milkshakes and vegan grilled cheese at a Chicago diner, she offered a cheery take on their itinerary.

“First, we can relax at the hotel in the morning,” explains Flower. “Second, there’s a park nearby where we can have a lot of fun. Third, we might have a backup plan, which is really exciting. Fourth: the candy store!”

The next day’s appointment gave them another reason to celebrate: If care wasn’t available in Indiana, they could get it in Illinois.

“The state of Indiana can do whatever they want,” Janeline said. “We can come here.” (AP)

(This is an unedited and auto-generated story from a syndicated news feed, the latest staff may not have modified or edited the body of content)



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