Who Decides Kids’ Genders

The State or the Family?

When the topic of this Note was first proposed, two states had passed statutory bans on gender-affirming care for trans youth. As of its publication, that number stands at least twenty-two. Over a third of youth nationwide live in these states, which now deprive families of the ability to make an informed decision regarding the medical care of their own children. Medical and scientific consensus is clear: Gender-affirming care works, and it saves the lives of transgender individuals. Furthermore, the United States has a long and robust history of recognizing and respecting the Constitutional right of parents to direct the upbringing of their children. As highlighted during the recent COVID pandemic, however, the United States also has a long and robust history of recognizing the power of States to enact measures that protect the public health and morals. This Note explores the conflict between these two American traditions as applied to States’ efforts to ban gender-affirming care for transgender youth, concludes these bans are unconstitutional, and highlights the need for heightened scrutiny of laws that override the joint medical decision-making of parents, children, and their physicians.

* J.D. Candidate, University of Illinois College of Law (2024); B.S., Northern Illinois University (2018). Thank you to the University of Illinois Law Review for their hard work on this Note and the entire 2024 Volume. Special thanks to Professor Janice Pea for your advice, guidance, and encouragement throughout the writing process and to Professor Shannon Moritz for teaching this former engineer how to write in the first place. I dedicate this Note to my Nan, Rita, who never missed a beat in loving me as the woman I am.

The full text of this Note is available to download as a PDF.