Home Opinion OPINION: Societal change can be hard, but it goes better when approached...

OPINION: Societal change can be hard, but it goes better when approached with love and an open mind

If you ever doubted just how coarse and willfully cruel some politicians of the modern political right have become, check out what happened last week when the North Carolina Senate Judiciary Committee debated a bill that would ban gender-affirming care for young people — even those with parental approval and a physician recommendation.

When State Sen. Sydney Batch rightfully called attention to the medically documented fact that gender-affirming care saves lives by dramatically reducing the chance the young people in question will commit suicide, committee chairman Buck Newton — a Wayne County Republican — did something that was at once shocking and deeply offensive: He laughed out loud.

When called out for his remarkable outburst, he doubled down and made the false claim that Batch’s statements — which merely reported facts from national medical journals — were “specious.”

Imagine how you would feel if it was you or your loved one whose life and life-affirming healthcare was the object of such blatant and cruel ignorance.

That Newton would purport to question the long and well-established science in this area — much less do so in such a public and sophomorically inappropriate way — was a nauseating site to behold. It was not unlike a 1970s tobacco executive dismissively telling a lung cancer sufferer not to blame cigarettes or aggressive and misleading industry advertising that helped cause so much deadly addiction.

As Federal District Court Judge James Moody made clear last week in a detailed 80-page ruling striking down an Arkansas statue that mirrors the proposed North Carolina legislation, there is nothing specious in the least about the efficacy and benefits of gender-affirming healthcare for those struggling with gender dysphoria and gender incongruence.

Indeed, the judge’s ruling includes 311 findings of fact showing that medical and psychiatric experts have compiled reams of data over a period of several decades confirming the reality of these conditions and the benefits of various types of care.

This is from the judge’s ruling:

“The evidence at trial showed that the prohibited medical care improves the health and well-being of many adolescents with gender dysphoria. Three of Plaintiffs’ experts and two Arkansas doctors detailed the significant mental health benefits of gender-affirming medical care for adolescents with gender dysphoria which they have observed clinically.”

After noting that the defendants of the law did nothing to refute the expert testimony, Judge Moody also wrote:

“This expert testimony about positive research and clinical evidence was bolstered by the unrebutted testimony of the Parent Plaintiffs who explained how gender-affirming medical care positively transformed the lives of their adolescent children with gender dysphoria.”

Advertisements

Despite the volume and strength of the scientific research, divining the source of the attitudes reflected in the Arkansas statute, the North Carolina legislation, and Sen. Newton’s juvenile behavior is not a particularly difficult task.

Even if one sets aside the blatant and cynical misinformation and fear mongering that mark so much of the political right’s current anti-trans crusade, it must be conceded that grasping and appreciating the realities of this issue can be difficult for those to whom it is new and unfamiliar.

If you are a cisgender individual who has never seriously contemplated — much less intimately observed — the pain and suffering that has long afflicted millions of people struggling with gender dysphoria and gender incongruence, the first exposure to it can be jarring. Especially in a culture like America’s in which “traditional” gender roles and identities have so long been held up as the paragons of all virtue, and gender fluidity and queer identities treated as somehow flawed and unacceptable, the new openness that modern medicine and courageous advocacy have made possible can take some time to process.

As with so many other seemingly rapid changes that are occurring in modern society, the idea that someone a person has long known as being of one gender is transitioning (or has transitioned) to another can be disorienting, and even frightening at first. This is particularly true for many older observers (e.g., Sen. Newton) who may feel important parts of how they understand the world are being upended.

But of course, the same phenomenon has been at play throughout history during countless other societal advances that involved the liberation of groups long consigned to the shadows of repression, and even bondage. We humans have a remarkably stubborn penchant for dividing ourselves up into categories (races, religions, tribes, genders, castes, sexual orientations), developing and maintaining strict pecking orders, and then reacting badly when a disfavored group seeks visibility or to escape its assigned slot.

The good news in all this is that while we clearly have many miles to travel in coming to grips with and fully implementing the emancipation of numerous groups that have been seeking freedom and equality for centuries, it can and does happen.

Indeed, history has shown us repeatedly that with enough exposure and experience, even the most narrow-minded and bigoted of individuals can overcome their fears and hangups — especially when they muster a measure of empathy, open-mindedness and love. Would that Sen. Newton could enjoy such an experience.

NC Newsline Editor Rob Schofield oversees day-to-day newsroom operations, authors regular commentaries, and hosts a weekly radio show/podcast. Republished from ncnewsline.com.