Minnesota protects gender-affirming care for trans people

Minnesota’s Democratic Gov. Tim Walz signed an executive order Wednesday directing state agencies to protect and support access to gender-affirming health care across the state.

“All state agencies must, to the fullest extent of their lawful authority, pursue opportunities and coordinate with each other to protect people or entities providing, assisting, seeking or obtaining gender affirming health care services in Minnesota,” the order says.

Gender-affirming care is a supportive form of health care. It consists of an array of services that may include medical, surgical, mental health, and non-medical services for transgender and nonbinary people. It helps a person transition from their assigned gender — the one the person was designated at birth —  to their affirmed gender  — the gender they identify as.

The LGBTQ advocacy group OutFront Minnesota applauded Walz’s action, calling it a “Trans Refuge” order.

The group said “with the rights of our neighbors under threat this order sends a strong message to trans people, supportive families, and care providers — you are welcome here.”

Walz signed the executive order as Republican-led states around the U.S. pass  laws restricting gender-affirming care. At least four states this year have passed bills outlawing gender-affirming care for minors.

As part of Walz’s executive order, the governor prohibits the state from cooperating with investigations by states that want to penalize gender-affirming care. He said their actions “pose a grave threat to the health” of members of the LGBTQ+ community.

“We want every Minnesotan to grow up feeling safe, valued, protected, celebrated and free to exist as their authentic versions of themselves,” Walz said at a press conference on Wednesday.

“Protecting and supporting access to gender-affirming health care is essential to being a welcoming and supportive state to the community,” the governor said. “Minnesota is going to continue to be a refuge for people who seek to provide and to receive gender affirming health care services.”

Walz’s executive order not only requires state agencies to protect gender-affirming care and study the health benefits, but also directs agencies to investigate health care organizations that may have denied individuals access to gender-affirming care.

Lawmakers in Tennessee, Mississippi, Utah and South Dakota have recently have enacted legislation to restrict access to gender-affirming treatments for minors.

Arkansas enacted a ban in 2021, and Alabama put one on its books last year.

Arizona also enacted restrictions on gender-affirming care in 2022, but its ban was less sweeping than the others.

At his press conference, Walz called out those states, saying, “By outlawing gender affirming health care, states across this country are working to prevent people from receiving safe, medically necessary, evidence-based treatments. We know this urgency is real, thus the need of an executive order today.”

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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