Ruth Zimmer: Transgender law has already had those unintended consequences

Families and their physicians should be allowed to do what is in the best interest of their children.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) People gather at a rally in support of transgender youth at the Capitol building in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023.

I have spent a lot of time over the past couple of months trying to understand how we got to a place in our society where parents, their children and the health care professionals they trust are denied the right to do what is in their best interest.

As people we tend to categorize things. It makes decision-making easier and more efficient. When that comes at the expense of a child’s mental and physical health it is more nuanced. I do not doubt that the legislators who made the decision to outlaw transgender youth health care thought they were doing the right thing. I don’t think they intended to hurt children and their families, but the law has already had those unintended consequences.

One of the benefits of living in a society that is largely ruled by religion is the hope that the leadership will be guided by the values of religion, love, compassion and doing the right and thoughtful thing.

My child and my family are lucky. My son was able to transition before it was outlawed. Unfortunately, our worst fears are being realized by others. My heart aches for those who are going through this present injustice.

Growing up, my son was isolated and ostracized because he is transgender. He has been marginalized much of his life due to the fear and ignorance of others. There were those in our community who supported him and our family. There were others who were afraid and lashed out.

He lost a job he loved because he spoke out for others who could not speak out for themselves. He has stepped up and always done the right thing even when it was at his own expense. He has struggled with PTSD, anxiety and insomnia for most of his life. He works hard every day to control these.

If society had been more accepting and supportive at the time of his transitioning, I do not doubt that his early life would not have been so traumatic. I know this because of many of his LGBTQ childhood friends who have grown up in the more tolerant society of the past 10 years. His friends experienced less trauma and are now more able to be proud of who they are.

We were fortunate to have compassionate, educated physicians who helped us sort things out. Now their hands are tied and the care that my son received is illegal in this state. It is not a freakish thing or “contagious” to be transgender. It is a normal, though uncommon, occurrence.

Families and their physicians should be allowed to do what is in the best interest of their children. The Legislature should not feel comfortable with further marginalizing this already marginalized part of our society. Transgender individuals are valuable, courageous, empathetic people. They have had to question so much about themselves and their place in society at such a young age that they tend to be more introspective. They are a gift to our humanity that we need to support and love, not to demonize.

If you do not understand what it is like to be a transgender person living in a society that does not accept them, please reach out to anyone affiliated with this community with an open heart and mind you will be a better person for it.

Ruth Zimmer

Ruth Zimmer is a physician who has been working in Salt Lake for the past 30 years.