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Alberta LGBTQ2 advocates raise concerns after trans youths denied gender-affirming care

Click to play video: 'Advocates report numerous trans youths denied gender-affirming care in central Alberta'
Advocates report numerous trans youths denied gender-affirming care in central Alberta
WATCH: There are some concerning allegations around access to gender affirming care. Some living in central Alberta suggest they are denied treatment by physicians who are in fear of losing their licences. As Craig Momney reports this is happening almost three months before the legislation is even tabled – Jun 14, 2024

LGBTQ2 advocates are raising concerns as trans youth are allegedly being denied gender-affirming care due to fears of repercussions from the Alberta government’s proposed parental rights policy.

Amy Mendenhall, executive director of HOME in Red Deer, said psychologists and doctors have denied gender-affirming care to many queer and trans youth in the community because of these proposed policies.

HOME is a non-profit organization led by Two-Spirit, Indigenous and queer people that provide spaces for queer and trans youth.

Earlier this year, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith announced she will propose new policies that will prohibit all gender-affirming surgeries for minors aged 17 and under. Currently, the required age for genital reconstruction surgery (GRS) is 18 years of age and the required age for masculinization of the torso surgery (mastectomy) is 16 years of age.

The new policies would also prohibit access to puberty blockers and hormone therapy for gender-affirming care for youth aged 15 years and younger, except for those who have already started those treatments.

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“It is my view that list of adult choices includes deciding whether or not to alter one’s biological sex. Making permanent and irreversible decisions regarding one’s biological sex while still a youth can severely limit that child’s choices in the future,” Smith said at the time.

“Prematurely encouraging or enabling children to alter their very biology or natural growth, no matter how well-intentioned and sincere, poses a risk to that child’s future that I as premier am not comfortable with permitting in our province.”

Click to play video: 'Alberta proposes policy changes affecting trans-gender youth'
Alberta proposes policy changes affecting trans-gender youth

Mendenhall said she is disheartened by the stories.

“The doctors are afraid. The doctors say they don’t think they can do this because the (United Conservative government) is putting these laws in place. The laws aren’t through yet. Yet we understand that if this happens, then the youth would have to stop,” Mendenhall told Global News on Friday.

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Mendenhall called the doctors and psychologists “cowards,” saying they have to treat patients who have gone through the process to get gender-affirming care.

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“These trans kids, Two-Spirit kids, gender-affirming kids deserve access to health care … I know so many trans humans and if they don’t get this health care, their suicide risk heightens. We’re forcing people to live in a body that they aren’t meant to be in,” she added.

“Transgender is a real thing. Gender dysphoria is a real thing.

“The (policies) aren’t even in place yet and to not have access to care would that would make their quality of life substantially better … Just doesn’t make sense.”

Kris Wells, Canada research chair for the Public Understanding of Sexual & Gender Minority Youth, said he’s heard similar stories.

“The climate of fear and anxiety that many 2SLGBTQ youth are facing in the province since the premier’s discriminatory policy announcements were released makes it more difficult for young people to access gender-affirmative care or even if they’re lucky to have physicians, (the physicians) may now be feeling more reluctant to continue with hormone therapies or hormone blockers,” he said.

Click to play video: '‘Deeply troubling’: Alberta’s new gender identity policy concerns transgender community'
‘Deeply troubling’: Alberta’s new gender identity policy concerns transgender community

Wells said these clawbacks aren’t limited to health-care settings. Many school districts across the province have banned displays of Pride flags or safe space posters in schools.

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“This is all premature. These policy proposals have not yet been passed into legislation. It is quite disturbing that some individuals are taking action into their own hands when we actually don’t have any laws in place,” he said.

Click to play video: 'The West Block: Feb. 4, 2024 | Alberta Premier Danielle Smith defends new transgender policies, federal minister reacts'
The West Block: Feb. 4, 2024 | Alberta Premier Danielle Smith defends new transgender policies, federal minister reacts

In an emailed statement to Global News, the office of the minister of health said the province is developing a private registry of medical professionals who specialize in providing health care for transgender people. The ministry also said it is developing a counselling pilot project to help transgender youth and their families work through “often difficult and complex issues and discussions.”

“We are currently engaging on the implementation of these policies,” the statement read.

But Mendenhall said that neither she nor 16 other LGBTQ2 agencies in Red Deer were consulted before the policies were announced.

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“Where’s the consultation coming from? These kids shouldn’t be banned from health care when (the government) hasn’t consulted any of us,” she said.

Click to play video: 'Inside Pride: Gender-affirming healthcare spotty, hard to navigate across Canada'
Inside Pride: Gender-affirming healthcare spotty, hard to navigate across Canada

 Wells said many grassroots organizations are being created to support and provide resources for trans youth, but these efforts have largely gone underground because they are afraid of being targeted.

“The programs that are currently operating are overwhelmed with requests for information, or with young people wanting access before the legislation does change so that they can get the care that they need now when they know that is likely not going to be there in the future,” he said.

He urged health-care providers to continue to do their jobs as professionals.

“There is nothing in place restricting you from providing gender affirmative care and access to to hormones and treatment when they’re medically necessary,” he said. “I think we need to remember that gender identity is real. Gender-affirmative care is safe and not providing access to this care is a violation of human rights.”

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