Stoic Philosophy on the Protection of Gender Affirming Care

The Connection Between Transgender Individuals and Epictetus’ Philosophy

Stoic Philosophy on the Protection of Gender Affirming Care

The following article was written by Senior Ana Colebank for their Humanities class.

We as human beings crave acceptance from society. There are these deep-rooted feelings of “If I do this”, people will accept me, admire me and applaud me. People give their lives trying to achieve admiration and acceptance from society even if this requires them to be something they are not or to hide their identity because they fear being outcasts. 

Epictetus, a Greek Stoic philosopher, believed that we should do what is right and never be concerned if someone else does not approve of a virtuous action. He preached, “Keep your attention focused entirely on what is truly your own concern and be clear that what belongs to others is their business and none of yours.” He believed that to achieve eudaimonia or happiness one shouldn’t care what others think; truly the only thing that matters is to follow our own values.

So why are people pushing to deny trans youth gender-affirming care that has been used safely worldwide? These legislations completely ignore that gender-affirming care is standard medical care, supported by major medical organizations in the United States, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association. To make gender-affirming care illegal is a determinant to those who can’t get that care. Studies by the Trevor Project, a non-profit organization that focused on suicide prevention efforts among LGBTQ+ and questioning youth, have shown that more than half of transgender youth seriously contemplated suicide, and 20% attempted suicide in the previous year. The same study shows that those who got treatment experienced a 60% drop in depression and a 73% drop in suicidal thoughts. Another study done by the Seattle Children’s Gender Clinic shows that teens who did not undergo hormone or puberty-blocking treatment show the risks of depression and suicidal thoughts doubled or even tripled in three to six months. 

It doesn’t make sense for people to push legislation to deny the existence of trans youth and try to deny ethical, life-saving treatment for something that doesn’t affect them. Marcus Aurelius, a Roman emperor, was also a Stoic philosopher who questioned why people worry about things that do not impact them personally. He once said “How much time he gains who does not look to see what his neighbor says or does or thinks, but only at what he does himself, to make it just and holy.” Marcus warns us that worrying about other things that aren’t our concern is a waste of time. People need to focus on themselves, to question what they might be doing wrong. Don’t waste the little time you have spying on other people’s lives. 

The Stoics taught us the importance of looking inward and focusing on ourselves and not others. We also learned to not concern ourselves with others’ opinions because that does not match our own values and happiness. Trans youth deserve the care that helps protect their lives and should not be denied because others can’t focus solely on the things that do not concern them. Denying trans youth the right to live a happy life when it doesn’t affect them causes suffering for many people who are affected by legislation that takes away basic, ethical health care. Live like the stoics want us to live, by minding our own business and allowing others to live life to their own virtues so that everyone can achieve happiness.