As an association, the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy’s primary goal is to advocate for the profession of marriage and family therapy. We are also extremely sensitive to policies affecting individuals and families spanning a wide range of issues.
AAMFT is aware of recent passage of a bill in Arkansas related to banning access to gender-affirming care. On Tuesday, the Arkansas House overturned the governor’s veto to pass the bill, restricting access to treatment for transgender young people.
AAMFT has been clear and vocal in its position that as an association, discrimination will not be tolerated on any basis. We reiterate our global commitment to inclusivity, diversity, and a fundamental belief in the power of relationships upon which our profession is built. We recognize the adverse effects of this legislation on the livelihood of the transgender and gender diverse community, including depression, increased suicide and attempted suicide, and fewer safe, inclusive spaces in which to thrive.
There is also a large number of anti-transgender bills before other state legislatures. In 2020, there were a record-setting 79 anti-transgender bills introduced in state legislatures. This year, that record has been beaten again, with over 83 anti-transgender bills introduced at the state level. While Arkansas House Bill 1570 does not explicitly prohibit mental health providers from providing gender affirmative care, it could likely cause an increase in mental and emotional distress as transgender individuals are denied medical care to assist with gender transitions. Legislative proposals like HB 1570 may also leave mental health providers overwhelmed with clients experiencing gender dysphoria, without any medical providers to refer clients to for further treatment. AAMFT opposes legislation that discriminates against the LGBTQ+ population, such as HB 1570 and legislation that seeks to limit MFTs’ ability to provide gender affirmative care.
Many marriage and family therapists currently have an active and affirming role with transgender and gender diverse clients, supporting them throughout their journey of self-discovery, self-acceptance, and transition. Further, MFTs have occupied an integral role in supporting these individuals within their family systems, facilitating enriching, stable relationships that are fundamental to their well-being.
We also honor the contributions and influence on our field and within our own community by systemic therapists who identify as transgender or gender diverse. AAMFT is proud to support the Queer and Trans Advocacy Network (QTAN), a topical interest network that among its many goals is to increase professional competency to better serve all sexual and gender minority (SGM) clients and to advocate for SGM health and well-being. Alex Iantaffi, Chair of QTAN, urges family therapists to join community-based efforts to challenge discriminatory bills in their states to protect the emotional health of trans, nonbinary, and gender expansive youth beyond the therapy room. “We know, from the existing body of literature, that family support is a protective factor for trans, nonbinary and gender expansive youth. Family support leads to lower suicidality, and levels of depression and anxiety similar to the general youth population. As family therapists, our role in ensuring that families understand and support their children is essential.”
The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, Washington, D.C., is the largest national association for marriage and family therapists representing the professional interests of over 60,000 marriage and family therapists. Recognizing that relationships are fundamental to the health and well‐being of individuals, couples, families, and communities, AAMFT exists to advance the profession and the practice of marriage and family therapy. Relationships matter!