With bills targeting transgender youth under consideration in more than half of U.S. states, Alexander Chen, founding director of Harvard Law School’s LGTBQ+ Advocacy Clinic, recently shared personal reflections with Slate on how not being able to access gender-affirming care and participate in sports during his youth affected him. For Chen, who has rediscovered his childhood passion for sports and the outdoors in recent years, the benefits of being able to live authentically and participate in athletic activities he loves are immeasurable— highlighting just how damaging the proposed bills are for the long-term physical and emotional health of transgender youth.
“Becoming more active has straightened out my health problems and helped me achieve better work-life balance. But more importantly, it’s also helped me realize that I didn’t flake out of PE class so many times as a kid because I was an Asian nerd, I didn’t like sports, I wasn’t athletic, or I was just plain lazy—all things I accused myself of at the time. Instead, I couldn’t be physically active as a teenager when doing so emphasized how wrong I felt in my body, how my school gendered me incorrectly, and how impossible it seemed that I would ever inhabit the world and my body in a way that felt right to me. Growing up transgender is like being trapped in COVID quarantine, except you’re stuck in your body instead of your house, there’s no vaccine on the horizon, and you have to live like this for the rest of your life.”