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Three generations of trans Americans speak about how times have changed — and haven't

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

LGBTQ legal advocates won a victory in court in Missouri today. A judge agreed to put a temporary hold on that state's new ban on transgender health care that would affect all ages. The ban, imposed by Missouri's attorney general, was set to take effect tomorrow. Missouri is one of more than a dozen Republican-led states that have enacted laws or policies to restrict gender-affirming care, such as puberty blockers or cross-sex hormones. We're going to hear now the perspective of trans people from different generations talking about this current political climate and their hopes or fears about the future.

PARKER ANDREWS: My name is Parker Andrews. I'm 16 years old.

BLOCK: Parker is a high school sophomore in Saint Louis, Mo. He started his medical transition two years ago.

KALEB HOBSON-GARCIA: Hi, I'm Kaleb Hobson-Garcia. I'm from Tallahassee, Fla.

BLOCK: Kaleb is 21, about to graduate from Florida State. He started his transition at age 12.

And Debra Hopkins - she's 66, a pastor in Charlotte, N.C.

DEBRA HOPKINS: Hello, everyone. It's good to meet all of you.

BLOCK: Hopkins recalls that when she started her transition in the 1980s, it was a very different time.

HOPKINS: It really was. In fact, the internet still was nowhere near what it is today in terms of resourceful information. And so I was actually traveling blindly for much of that time - started out taking illegal hormones out of Canada. And we didn't know what kind of medication we were getting out of Canada, but we were so desperate to begin that transition. You know, we were so young and naive.

BLOCK: Kaleb, let me turn to you there in Florida. You started medically transitioning with puberty blockers when you were 12. When you listen to Debra talk about how things were back in her day, how does that strike you? It's such a different time.

HOBSON-GARCIA: Yeah. I mean, incredibly different. And I know the first thought I had was I'm so relieved that we live in a more accepting world. Right now, we live in a world that I can go to a doctor who prescribes me safe hormones. I can go to CVS or a Walgreens, and I'll pick up safe hormones. And then the second thought that hit me was, is this going to be a reality eventually in the South - that we'll need to go back to the way it was - to black market - in order to get hormones if they're being blocked by legislation? So I'm relieved that we are where we are right now, but a little worried that the past might become the future.

BLOCK: Parker Andrews, let me bring you in now, there in Missouri. You're 16. You're part of a trans generation that's highly visible, very vocal. There's a higher percentage of your age group that identifies as nonbinary or trans. But at the same time, you're transitioning at a time when lots of states are passing laws or have policies that will ban gender-affirming care or otherwise limit trans rights, including there where you live, in Missouri. How does all that affect you?

ANDREWS: It is a very scary time to be a trans person, especially just thinking about a lot of the ways that these bills are worded about protecting kids. But I often feel quite the opposite is true, especially when it comes to kids who are in the midst of transitioning, such as myself, because with centers being shut down and bills being passed that restrict or stop hormone replacement therapy entirely, as you were saying, where, like, people have to resort to hormones that aren't either safely administered - hormones where they're not entirely sure where they're from. And then also, there's just health risk with, if you're unable to get any hormones at all, stopping hormones entirely without any medical intervention or oversight from a doctor. That can also have adverse health effects.

HOPKINS: You know, as I listen to this generation and what's going on in government with bills that are out there, I'm concerned. I'm really - I'm angry, actually, because I'm seeing them being pulled back into the time as I was growing up. And that's frightening.

BLOCK: Kaleb, you are about to graduate from Florida State. And I wonder, looking forward, if you see a place for yourself in Florida. Is Florida where you want to be, given the legislation in the state, given the political climate?

HOBSON-GARCIA: Yeah, and that's a question that I think my answer changes every day - that I only know Florida. I was born and raised in Florida. I wasn't planning on leaving the state when I graduated, and I've gone back and forth thinking that, yes, I'm going to leave. I'm going to move to a friendlier place - a place where I can - I know for a fact I'll continue to get health care that's covered by insurance. And then on the flip side, I want to stay, and I want to keep fighting. And I have all of these great job connections for what I want to do with my degree. And so in a perfect world where none of these bills were passing, I absolutely would stay in Florida. And I think I am still going to stay in Florida, but it is scary to think about. You know, it's hard not to feel as if there's a target on your back as a trans person in the state of Florida.

BLOCK: Those who are opposed to gender-affirming care for transgender youth often make the argument that it's unsafe, that it's experimental. They might mention bone loss with puberty blockers or risks of permanent infertility with hormone replacement therapy. Parker, do you share any of those concerns about the long-term effects of the care that you're getting?

ANDREWS: For me, the biggest concern is balding, but...

HOBSON-GARCIA: Same here.

(LAUGHTER)

ANDREWS: ...Outside of that, I would say that my care has been very regulated. I go in for routine bloodwork. I take supplements to make sure that my bones stay strong. I would say, as far as things have gone, I've - at least mental health-wise, I feel like I've even improved.

BLOCK: I'm sure you've all heard a lot of the inflammatory and often really quite hateful language in these debates over transgender rights, which sometimes includes people essentially saying that trans people don't exist - that there are two sexes - that being trans is not an identity, it's an ideology. And I wonder how you shield yourself from vitriol like that, especially when it's framed as denying that trans people - that you - don't even exist.

HOPKINS: As a woman of color, I experience that quite often. And I've gotten used to the rhetoric that comes out of the conversations that so many of them have because it's been directed at us, as people of color, throughout the generations. And I've learned to just ignore a lot of that noise 'cause that's what it is to me - it's noise. I ignore it. That's when I take my trip down to the beach or go up into the mountains and just exhale and let it go. Let it out.

BLOCK: Kaleb, what about you?

HOBSON-GARCIA: Yeah, this is something I talked to my mom about after what - Representative Webster Barnaby's comments in the Florida legislature. He called trans people demons, imps, mutants - compared us to "X-Men" mutants. And I was sitting in the room when he said that. And I remember my first thought and my first action was I started laughing out loud - like, legitimately laughing. And my thought was just - this man is so insecure that he's placing all of his hatred towards a group of people that he does not even want to even attempt to understand. This is a very shallow man and just someone that I don't think even respects himself if he can't respect people different from him. And the people who are against us are a very loud but a very small minority. But most people are good, and I truly do believe that.

BLOCK: As we wrap up here, Debra, I wonder if you have words of advice from your perspective as a 66-year-old woman for your younger colleagues here...

(LAUGHTER)

BLOCK: ...Kaleb and Parker - things you know now that you wish you had known when you transitioned.

HOPKINS: These two that I have listened to have just warmed my spirit in ways that - I am so proud. I'm so proud of the both of you - how you continue to persevere and press forward in your knowledge and in your understanding, walking in your authenticity. Remain in those supportive communities that will be able to help strengthen you, help guide and protect. And because you have loving parents, supportive parents there, guys, I need to be a part of y'all family.

(LAUGHTER)

HOPKINS: So you guys hang in there. Continue to do what you do and move forward because you all are going to move the needle to another level for the generation that's coming up behind you.

BLOCK: Kaleb, you've got about five years on Parker, what things would you like him to know?

HOBSON-GARCIA: Oh. I mean, that transitioning is great - that every single year, from when I was 16 to now, I've just become more and more comfortable and happy in my own identity and have just loved being able to become the man that I am today. The needle is always ticking towards the path of progress. It's not fair that we need to be the ones pushing it. It'd be great if that needle ticked on its own, but it doesn't. And it is an honor in some ways to be able to push that needle. You're doing a great job already at helping do that for the entire community, not just yourself. And that's huge to be doing at 16.

BLOCK: And Parker, I'm going to give you the last word.

ANDREWS: Thank you both so much. The - I'm at a point now that I never thought I would get to. Younger me never thought that I was going to be able to transition or that I would find myself in such an accepting environment. And now that things are kind of cracking down, being able to see older queer people just being their true selves and living their lives and hearing just such words of encouragement, it really - it just - it makes me feel great, and it makes me feel hopeful for my future.

BLOCK: Well, Parker Andrews, Kaleb Hobson-Garcia, Debra Hopkins, thank you all so much for this conversation.

ANDREWS: Thank you.

HOBSON-GARCIA: Thank you.

HOPKINS: Melissa, thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF JUICE WRLD SONG, "THE LIGHT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Brianna Scott
Brianna Scott is currently a producer at the Consider This podcast.
As special correspondent and guest host of NPR's news programs, Melissa Block brings her signature combination of warmth and incisive reporting. Her work over the decades has earned her journalism's highest honors, and has made her one of NPR's most familiar and beloved voices.
Justine Kenin
Justine Kenin is an editor on All Things Considered. She joined NPR in 1999 as an intern. Nothing makes her happier than getting a book in the right reader's hands – most especially her own.

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