September 18, 2018
Contact: Lauren Gray, NCLR
lgray@nclrights.org / 215.983.3099

California is Now the First State in the Country to Guarantee Trans Foster Youth Can Access Gender-Affirming Healthcare

 SAN FRANCISCO, CA—California Governor Jerry Brown signed landmark transgender rights legislation into law last week, guaranteeing the right of California’s foster youth to access gender-affirming healthcare services. Authored by California State Assemblymember Todd Gloria, AB 2119 is the first bill of its kind in the nation.

“Every young person in foster care deserves, and is entitled to, medically necessary health care. The harms caused by the denial or delay of medically necessary care are particularly acute for transgender and gender non-conforming children and youth, who often encounter barriers to receiving the care they need to ensure their health, safety, and well-being,” said Shannan Wilber, Youth Policy Director at the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “We applaud Governor Brown for taking this historic step to help these vulnerable young people thrive and reach their full potential.”

AB 2119 ensures that transgender youth in foster care have timely access to appropriate, needed care that respects their gender identity and supports their healthy development. Withholding timely, gender-affirming treatment for adolescents prolongs and worsens gender dysphoria and can increase risk of abuse and stigmatization. Failure to treat any medical condition—including gender dysphoria—subjects foster youth to risk of significant harm and violates the child welfare agency’s obligation to protect their safety and promote their well-being.

Many individuals shared their stories with NCLR as part of this process, including former foster youth and transgender man *Ian. Ian was a month old when he entered the foster care system, and he was 16 years old when he tried to access gender-affirming healthcare while living in a California group home. Ian’s group home was unsupportive and refused to connect him to the care he needed. Eventually, Ian was able to find support from a local LGBTQ center who helped connect him to care. Ian was depressed when he wasn’t able to access gender-affirming care because he felt he was being denied who he was. He felt lost and misunderstood—feelings that were alleviated when he was finally able to the healthcare he needed.

“California has a special obligation to ensure that youth in foster care receive the medical care that they need, since the state stands in loco parentis to these youth,” said Alexander Chen, Equal Justice Works Fellow at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, who testified regarding AB 2119 before the California Senate Judiciary Committee on June 26, 2018. “AB 2119 helps to ensure that California lives up to that obligation for transgender and gender non-conforming foster youth.”

In addition, this new law requires the California Department of Social Services and the Department of Health Care Services to develop guidelines on how to identify, coordinate, and support transgender youth who wish to access gender-affirming healthcare, which must be issued by the Department by January 1, 2020.

AB 2119 was sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union of California, Equality California, the Los Angeles LGBTQ Center, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and Lambda Legal.

*Pseudonym used to protect the privacy of this individual.


The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education. www.NCLRights.org