Right-Wingers Harass Vanderbilt U. Hospital Over Gender-Affirming Care

·3 min read
Vanderbilt University Medical Center
Vanderbilt University Medical Center

Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville is under attack for the gender-affirming care it provides to young people, and now Tennessee lawmakers are calling for restrictions on such care.

It all started with a podcast and social media posts this week by right-wing blogger Matt Walsh. He shared video of a doctor at Vanderbilt calling gender-affirming surgeries a “big moneymaker” and another of a professor saying there would be “consequences” if hospital personnel object to participating in the procedures.

However, the doctor, Shayne Taylor, “does not refer to children in the video clip Walsh posted, which did not appear to contain her full remarks,” Tennessee Lookout notes. And in the clip of the professor, Ellen Walsh, it’s unclear “whether she was referring to consequences for patients or for staff,” according to the site.

Another clip features a plastic surgeon discussing requirements for top surgery. “Walsh inaccurately characterized the remarks to suggest that after children are ‘drugged and sterilized,’ Vanderbilt surgeons ‘will happily perform double mastectomies on adolescent girls,’” the Lookout reports.

Genital surgery is not performed on minors, in accordance with guidelines for best medical practices, and there are strict requirements that must be met for top surgery on teens. But Walsh appeared Thursday on Tucker Carlson Tonight with “Vanderbilt Ghouls Castrate Kids for Big Profit” on the crawl. Walsh characterized the treatment given to minors (hormones and puberty blockers) as irreversible, which is not the case.

After Walsh’s original podcast and posts, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee called for an investigation of Vanderbilt and said the performance of gender-affirming procedures on minors raises “serious moral, ethical and legal concerns,” The Tennessean reports. Other Republican politicians are calling for a ban on the administration of gender-affirming care to minors. Bans have been enacted in Arkansas and Alabama, but they are currently blocked by courts while lawsuits proceed.

In response, Vanderbilt took down its web pages that deal with gender-affirming care and released this statement Wednesday:

Vanderbilt University Medical Center is now the subject of social media posts and a video that misrepresent facts about the care the Medical Center provides to transgender patients.

VUMC began its Transgender Health Clinic because transgender individuals are a high-risk population for mental and physical health issues and have been consistently underserved by the U.S. health system.

We have been and will continue to be committed to providing family-centered care to all adolescents in compliance with state law and in line with professional practice standards and guidance established by medical specialty societies.

VUMC requires parental consent to treat a minor patient who is to be seen for issues related to transgender care, and never refuses parental involvement in the care of transgender youth who are under age 18.

Our policies allow employees to decline to participate in care they find morally objectionable, and do not permit discrimination against employees who choose to do so. This includes employees whose personal or religious beliefs do not support gender-affirming care for transgender persons.

The Trans Buddy program mentioned in the video has received national acclaim. Its purpose is to provide peer volunteers who support persons who are seeking highly personal care in an unfamiliar environment, and who may have been refused medical services in the past or avoided seeking them out of fear of being met with hostility.

Hospitals in Boston and Akron, Ohio, have also been harassed for providing gender-affirming care to young people. Carlson has said hospitals should expect such harassment. A Massachusetts woman was arrested last week for allegedly making a fake bomb threat at Boston Children’s Hospital.