A group of more than 50 notable transgender Americans, including the actor Elliot Page and director Lilly Wachowski, filed an amicus brief Wednesday in support of a lawsuit seeking to overturn a law in Arkansas that would limit health care for trans youth.
The friend-of-the-court brief, filed by the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, comes amid a lawsuit against Arkansas’s first-in-the-nation law, which prohibits doctors from providing medically necessary treatment to transgender youth or referring patients to gender-affirming care. Doing so, the group said, would deny young trans kids happiness and joy in their lives.
“When I started living as my true self, I would sometimes catch short sharp glimpses of my reflection in windows and cars as I’d walk along or ride my bike,” Wachowski said in the filing. “It would make my heart skip a beat. The silhouette of my shadow on the ground cast by the afternoon sun was exhilarating and life affirming.”
“I couldn’t believe the amount of energy I had, ideas, how my imagination flourished, because the constant discomfort and pain around that aspect of my body was gone,” Page wrote of his experience seeking medical care.
Chris Mosier, a professional triathlete, spoke of his first race after undergoing surgery, describing the experience as euphoric.
“The feeling of being able to run freely in a body that more closely matched the way I’ve always seen myself was overwhelming,” Mosier wrote.
Arkansas’s Republican-controlled legislature forced the bill, dubbed the Save Adolescents from Experimentation, or SAFE, Act through last March, overriding a veto by Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson. The ACLU filed suit on behalf of four families of transgender youth and two doctors, and a federal judge blocked the law from going into effect last August as it makes its way through the legal system.
Human rights groups and medical associations have lambasted the law, saying it feeds into conservative dog whistles about transgender people and will cause undue harm to already vulnerable youth.
The American Academy of Pediatrics said last March it publicly opposed any effort to rein in access to health care, calling such bills “dangerous” efforts that ignore and undermine public health findings.
“Pediatricians are best able to determine what care is necessary and appropriate for these children, but these bills interfere in the physician-patient-family relationship and would cause undue harm,” the group’s then-president, Lee Savio Beers, said at the time. “Politics has no place here. Transgender children, like all children, just want to belong.”
Many of those who signed on to the amicus brief agreed with that notion, saying earlier access to gender-affirming care would have prevented suffering and hardship. The brief added that many of the “friends” (amici) attached to the brief described access to gender-affirming care as “lifesaving.”
Jazz Jennings, a transgender activist and YouTube star, echoed those sentiments in the brief, saying access to care helped her overcome debilitating dysphoria and live a joyful childhood.
“I never looked masculine. I developed alongside my peers as a female teenager,” Jennings said. “I was able to lead a happy childhood because I was able to live as the girl I knew I was.”