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Arkansas family tries to navigate wave of anti-trans legislation

Arkansas family navigates anti-trans laws
Arkansas family navigates anti-trans laws 02:47

Missouri on Wednesday became the 20th state to pass a law aimed at limiting transgender rights, bringing the total number of anti-trans laws passed this year to 66. That number shattered the record of 20 similar laws passed across 12 states in 2022.

Arkansas was the first state to enact a ban on gender-affirming care for young people. One Little Rock family is now dealing with the fallout as they raise their transgender teenage son.

Lizz Garbett, an operating room nurse, said that things were tough before her son, Simon, transitioned a few years ago.

"We couldn't figure out what was going on, and it was not a happy place," she said. "After he transitioned, our home got calm again. Everybody felt like themselves and I've been able to watch him blossom to his true self. And I never saw that before."

Simon, now 17, first transitioned socially — cutting his hair and changing his clothes. He has since legally changed his name and started hormone replacement therapy. He has also become an activist for the rights of trans youth.

He said the work is "nerve-racking" and gives him a lot of anxiety, but that he has to do it. 

Trans Youth From Over 16 States Gather At The Nation's Capitol For The First Trans Youth Prom
Simon Garbett, 17, who hails from Little Rock, Arkansas, dances with his mom Lizz Garbett during the "Trans Youth Prom" on May 22, 2023 in Washington, D.C. Getty Images

Simon said seeing the wave of anti-trans legislation passed in the last few years has been "really hurtful."

"The people making this legislation don't know trans people and haven't met trans people," he said. "And to be frank, they don't know what they're talking about."

A January survey from The Trevor Project showed that half of transgender and nonbinary young people seriously considered suicide in the past year.

Simon told CBS News that his transition has improved his mental health.

"Before, I was suicidal," he said. "I was miserable. I didn't take pictures of myself. I didn't take pictures of my face."

Arkansas' ban on gender-affirming care for young people is currently on hold after a federal judge temporarily blocked it in 2021. But the state has passed eight more laws this year restricting transgender rights.

Republican state Representative Mary Bentley sponsored some of that legislation. She denied that the laws were a message to transgender youth and their families that they aren't wanted in Arkansas.

"We care," she said. "Gender-affirming care is not decreasing suicide. In fact, cross-sex hormones and those are increasing the stress that folks go through."

But at least 30 national medical organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, have objected to legislative restrictions on gender-affirming care, some noting improved mental health and lower suicide rates after its application.

Simon — who plays the French horn and wants to go to law school — said it all comes down to one distinct feeling.

"Just hate is the obstacle," he said. "Just hate."

Lizz Garbett said that being trans is "just a tiny little piece of who [Simon] is. And he just wants to be allowed to live his real, authentic self."

A desire that's being made more difficult than ever.

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