Metro Weekly

9-Year-Old Transgender Boy’s Family Sues North Carolina

Lawsuit argues the ban on gender-affirming treatments discriminates against trans youth and infringes on parental rights.

Photo: Annie Spratt, Unsplash.

The family of a nine-year-old transgender boy is suing the state of North Carolina over its recently passed law barring minors from accessing gender-affirming care.

Other plaintiffs in the case include a family physician with experience providing gender-affirming care, the parent advocacy organization PFLAG, and the pro-LGBTQ health care organization GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBTQ Equality.

Enlisting the help of Lambda Legal and the National Health Law Program, the plaintiffs challenged the law’s constitutionality, and also asked the court to issue a preliminary injunction to block the law from being enforced while its merits are argued in court.

The plaintiffs’ lawyers argue that the ban on gender-affirming care violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because it prohibits only transgender youth from accessing gender-affirming treatments, such as hormones and puberty blockers, but does not prevent cisgender or intersex youth from accessing those same hormonal interventions.

The plaintiffs also argue the ban violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause by infringing on parents’ ability to make medical decisions in their children’s best interests, based on recommendations from qualified health care providers.

In the lawsuit, parents of the 9-year-old, referred to by the pseudonym “Victor Voe,” say that their child is terrified of undergoing puberty without access to gender-affirming care, which would heighten his feelings of gender dysphoria, and potentially put him at higher risk of suicide or self-harm. They argue that the ban will also threaten the health and well-being of other transgender adolescents in the state.

Voe’s parents, “Vanessa” and “Vance,” say that they “cannot bear to witness their child go through physical changes that will profoundly harm him.” But they also do not want to be forced to relocate to another state, or rack up significant debt by being forced to travel out-of-state on a regular basis just to ensure Victor will be able to access gender-affirming care, reports The News & Observer.

The law bans minors from accessing gender-affirming treatments and threatens medical providers who assist transgender minors in accessing them with the loss of their license. It also prohibits state funds, including Medicaid dollars, from being used to cover the cost of gender-affirming care. 

The law took effect on August 16 after the state’s Republican-led legislature overrode a veto by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper. The ban on transgender health care was one of several measures targeting the transgender community that were pushed through over Cooper’s objections, including a “Don’t Say Gay”-style law, a law requiring schools to “out” transgender students to their parents, and a bill barring transgender athletes from competing on female-designated sports teams.

In addition to North Carolina, 21 other states have passed some form of restrictions on minors’ ability to access gender-affirming care.

In June, a federal judge found a nearly identical ban in Arkansas to be unconstitutional. Several other state bans have been blocked by federal judges, only to subsequently be overturned by conservative appeals courts, including the 6th Circuit and 11th Circuit.

“Trans youth deserve the ability to be themselves and to be free from discrimination,” Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, an attorney with Lambda Legal, representing the plaintiffs, said in a statement. “Parents should not have their rights curtailed because their children are transgender. By bringing this case, we are seeking to vindicate those rights.”

Support Metro Weekly’s Journalism

These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!