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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — A transgender man who started transitioning medically and socially before he was 18 says his medical treatment was lifesaving. However, he fears stories like his could be illegal if the legislation surrounding transgender medical care comes to fruition.
The debate over medical care for transgender youth became a prominent topic among lawmakers this weekend when a conservative commentator posted a series of tweets Tuesday accusing Vanderbilt University Medical Center of opening its transgender clinic as a money-making scheme.
“We’re still in the process of looking at options in terms of what the legislation might look like,” Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) said, “We certainly want to talk to medical providers, we want to talk to people who are dealing with these kinds of issues. We want input.”
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Henry Seaton is a trans man who hopes Leader Johnson and others take the time to listen to his and other trans people’s stories about how gender-affirming treatment can save lives.
“It can be devastating especially when the people around you aren’t able to see you as who you are,” Seaton said.
Seaton, who is from Hendersonville and currently lives and works in Nashville, started transitioning when he was 14 socially and 17 medically when he began taking testosterone. He says that decision changed his life for the better.
“I didn’t know I was going to make it past the age of 18. When I started testosterone everything clicked,” he said.
Seaton went on to not only make it past 18 but do work he is passionate about as an LGBTQ organizer for the ACLU of Tennessee. But he said while taking testosterone and transitioning made him feel more like himself, it also brought on an onslaught of bullying.
“I had this one teacher who actually called my mom at 10 p.m. at night saying how disgusting it was for her to let me be a man in school and be who I am,” he recalled.
He explained the decision to begin taking testosterone was not made “willy-nilly.”
Yet, some lawmakers still believe this decision can wait until a child becomes an adult.
“Why is it so important that you would perform something that is so potentially detrimental, irreversible, mutilation, potentially, before they reach the age of 18,” Johnson asked.
In response to this question, Seaton explained his decision came after a lot of research, doctor consults and difficult conversations with family and friends.
“My doctor at the time went through a huge document with me on all the permanent changes that testosterone can make and my Mother and I were able to make together to make that safe and informed medical decision,” he said. “They are not just doing it for fun, they are not doing it because it’s the thing to do nowadays, they risk so so much, they risk their friends, they risk their family, they risk homelessness.”
Other members of the trans community agree with Seaton.
A trans man who has affiliations with Vanderbilt and asked to only use his first name said the only way he can come close to explaining living with gender dysmorphia is by comparing it to being right-handed but forced to do everything with your left.
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“It’s like how do you explain that you are right-handed other than the fact that it just comes to you,” Adam said. “For me, I was very depressed and suicidal before I transitioned.”
According to a paper published by the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 86% of transgender youth consider suicide. Seaton believes the surgeries and treatments some are calling mutilation are actually what is saving lives.
“The choice isn’t whether or not to change your body forever, the choice quite frankly is whether I want to live to see a future for myself or not.”