Akron Children's Hospital the latest target of social media attacks on transgender care

Akron Children's Hospital is the latest target of right-wing social media accounts targeting children's hospitals nationwide that offer gender affirming care.

Last month, Boston Children’s Hospital, which is home to the first pediatric and adolescent transgender health program in the United States, became the first target of far-right social media accounts, news outlets and bloggers.

Last week, federal authorities arrested and charged a Massachusetts woman accused of calling in a fake bomb threat at Boston Children's Hospital, where doctors and staffers have been facing harassment and threats of violence over its pediatric and adolescent transgender health program. 

Gender-affirming medicine is an evolving field that involves consultation with medical and social work professionals to provide care for transgender patients seeking characteristics more aligned with their gender identity. It can include such services as puberty suppression, hormone treatment, mental health care coordination, well checks and preventative visits, education and supportive care for LGBTQ+ youth and their families.

More:Youth receive help for identity struggle at Akron Children's clinic

Other children’s hospitals around the country, including in Phoenix and Philadelphia, have also become the targets of the campaign.

This week, Akron Children’s Hospital, which has a Center for Gender Affirming Medicine, became a target.

Ohio state Rep. Casey Weinstein, D-Hudson, took to Twitter to defend the Akron-based hospital.

“For the past week, @libsoftiktok and a band of anonymous trolls led a social TERROR campaign against @AkronChildrens, a world-class institution that thousands of my constituents (including my kids) are patients/employees of,” Weinstein wrote in a tweet on Wednesday.

“Hear me now — stay the HELL away from our kids,” he tweeted.

What is the Center for Gender Affirming Medicine?

Akron Children’s Hospital opened its Center for Gender Affirming Medicine in the summer of 2019. Clinic officials said they were devoted to helping adolescents struggling with gender identity issues.

Patients at the clinic see a multidisciplinary team that includes gender-affirming medical providers as well as a social worker, nurse coordinator, mental health therapist and endocrinologist. The center sees patients age 7 or older.

Sex-reassignment surgeries are not available at Akron Children's Hospital and the team waits to provide medication — such as hormonal treatments or puberty-suppressing medicines — until after the youth is fully evaluated, doctors said.

Transgender youths are at higher risk of suicide and homelessness, Akron Children's doctors have said. Forty-one percent of transgender individuals have suicide attempts in their lifetime.

"I just want to live my life": Trans youth, others condemn gender-affirming care bans

Rep. Casey Weinstein explains his support of hospital

In a phone interview on Thursday, Weinstein said he has “anonymous trolls” on his Twitter page and he started noticing them going after Akron Children’s Hospital.

“They were claiming that Akron Children’s is performing castrations and body mutilations on really young children, which I know is not the case,” said Weinstein.

He said the hospital's clinic helps care for patients and reduce the risk of suicide.

Weinstein said he was following what had happened at Boston Children’s Hospital last week and he cares about Akron Children’s Hospital.

“It’s just outside my district, but my children are patients there and many of my friends work there and a lot of my constituents get care there. This place matters to me,” Weinstein said.

Weinstein said he felt he needed to stand up for the local hospital.

“I am concerned and I want (Akron Children’s) to know I’ve got their backs and I want people to know we need to be standing up and defending our beloved world-class Akron Children’s Hospital,” he said. “I’ll take some of the heat, that’s fine. Bring it on me, not our Akron Children’s Hospital. Not our doctors and nurses and caregivers and kids.”

Casey Weinstein
Casey Weinstein

Weinstein said he heard from a Boston Children’s Hospital employee “thanking me, scared for her life because of what’s going on here.”

Local, national healthcare reaction

Akron Children's Hospital on Thursday released a statement in response to questions posed by the Beacon Journal about the social media attacks.

"Akron Children’s Hospital turns away no child who seeks care. This is a core promise since our founding in 1890 and includes the patients in our Center for Gender Affirming Medicine. We firmly believe that young people should have access to gender-affirming health care programs that are based on research and standards of care. We proudly stand behind the work of our program and providers.

"It made such a difference in my life":Clinics, employers embracing gender-affirming care

"In recent days, Akron Children’s program has become the focus of some online chatter that is full of misinformation about the care we provide. We condemn all forms of harassment, intimidation and the intentional spread of misinformation. We remain committed to offering a safe, inclusive and welcoming place for all patients, families and staff."

The American Academy of Pediatrics also released a statement to the Beacon Journal about the social media attacks at Akron Children's and other children's hospitals across the country:

“These attacks on doctors and children’s hospitals who provide health care are disruptive, dangerous and threatening to the health and safety of all who seek care and work at these institutions. The American Academy of Pediatrics stands with the physicians, nurses, mental health specialists and other health care professionals who provide evidence-based, gender-affirming health care to children and teens,” said Mark Del Monte, CEO of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Right-wing social media attack targets Akron Children's Hospital