Trans teens sue Montana for cruel healthcare ban: ‘Disrespect for my humanity’

An individual at an LGBTQ+ Pride parade holds a sign of trans solidarity.

Two trans teens are suing the state of Montana, arguing that a new law blocking essential trans healthcare for young people in the state is “unlawful” and “unconstitutional”.

Governor of Montana Greg Gianforte signed Senate Bill 99 – known as the Youth Health Protection Act – into law on April 28 2023.

The bill prohibits puberty blockers, hormone treatment and surgical procedures for transgender youths being treated for gender dysphoria, and goes into effect on 1 October 2023.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Montana and Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit on behalf of two families who will be affected by this ban on 9 May.

The plaintiffs include 16-year-old Scarlet Garderen – along with her parents Jessica van Garderen and Ewout van Garderen, and 15-year-old Phoebe Cross – along with his parents Molly Cross and Paul Cross.

‘Just living as a trans teenager is difficult enough’

In a statement, Phoebe expressed sadness at the culture war stirred by Republican politicians and the attacks trans youth have endured from politicians.

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“I will never understand why my representatives are working to strip me of my rights and the rights of other transgender kids,” he wrote.

“Just living as a trans teenager is difficult enough, the last thing me and my peers need is to have our rights taken away.

There were many things I hoped my elected officials would achieve, this regression in human rights is not one of those things. The blatant disrespect for my humanity and existence is deeply unsettling.” 

Two doctors who provide gender-affirming care in the state – Dr Katy Mistretta of Bozeman Creek Family Health and Dr Juanita Hodax of Community Medical Center – are also involved in the lawsuit.

Governor of Montana Greg Gianforte signed the bill banning trans youth from receiving healthcare in April. (Getty Images)

The lawsuit states that Scarlet and Phoebe are both transgender and are “currently receiving medically necessary care that would be prohibited by the act”.

It argues the bill unfairly targets trans youth, as health providers can still give their “cis patients the same medical treatments that are prohibited when provided to transgender adolescents”.

It continues to say although the act claims to protect trans youth, it instead fact endangers them and threatens the “health and wellbeing of transgender adolescents by denying them access to life-saving care.”

The complaint states that the ban serves no purpose other than to “intentionally burden a transgender person’s ability to seek necessary care to align their body with their gender identity”.

The lawsuit brands SB 99 as “unconstitutional” and requests “an injunction prohibiting the act’s enforcement”.

The ACLU posted a Twitter saying that it was “challenging Montana’s sweeping ban on gender-affirming health care for trans youth”.

They said it was the “sixth time” they’ve sued to defend trans youth health care in a month.

Lambda Legal Senior Counsel, Peter Renn, condemned politicians for their “competitive” nature when it comes to discrimination.

“We’ve entered a new era of competitive cruelty where politicians are trying to outdo one another in discrimination, as illustrated by the governor’s initial veto of the ban because it just wasn’t vicious enough,” he said

SB 99 is the same bill that led to Missoula Representative Zooey Zephyr to being barred from the Montana House floor after she told colleagues they’d have “blood on their hands” if they passed it. After her passionate speech advocating for the rights of trans youth, Zephyr was silenced by House speaker Matt Regier.

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