Health program for trans kids shuts down amid conservative attacks

289

A Texas health program that offered mental health care and hormone treatments to trans kids has dissolved following attacks from anti-trans protesters who falsely claimed the program was 'child abuse.'

A health care program for transgender youth in Dallas, Texas, has been disbanded after facing criticism from right-wing, anti-trans protesters, the Texas Tribune reported Friday.

The GENder Education and Care, Interdisciplinary Support program, also known as GENECIS, provided hormone treatments, mental health services, and counseling. The program was dissolved sometime in early November, according to the outlet.

Children's Medical Center Dallas and UT Southwestern Medical Center, which ran the program jointly, released a statement Friday saying patients would still be able to access those services through speciality departments at the Children's Medical Center, and that the "choice to remove branding for this care offers a more private, insulated experience for patients and their families."

The statement did not say whether the decision was in direct connection with right-wing activists who falsely claimed that GENECIS' services constituted child abuse, only that the call to end the program related to privacy issues.

"We accept new patients for diagnosis, including evaluation of gender dysphoria, but will not initiate patients on hormone or puberty suppression therapy for only this diagnosis," the statement added.

On Oct. 28, the group Save Texas Kids organized a protest against the program to "call out the Board members of Dallas Childrens [sic] for allowing their Genecis program to irreversibly damage prepubescent children!"

Save Texas Kids, which has since made its website private, is a conservative group that pushes anti-trans rhetoric and claims it is worried about critical race theory in schools. The head of the organization, Natalie Cato, sent an email to teachers at Dallas Independent School District in September asking them to alert her to any mentions of gender fluidity and critical race theory in schools so that she could investigate them.

Cato formerly worked as a field director for the Republican Party of Texas and was part of former President Donald Trump's campaign in 2020, Spectrum News reported.

The GENECIS program served 400 transgender young people in 2017, according to Dallas-Fort Worth NBC affiliate KXAS-TV. Dr. Meredith Chapman, a lead psychiatrist at GENECIS, said of the program at that time, "This is a group of kids that we need to make life better for, so we are saving lives and we're making life better."

The decision to dissolve the program comes amid sustained political attacks on transgender kids in Texas. According to Texas Competes, there have been more state anti-LGBTQ bills introduced this year than any other since year going back to 2015.

As of Sept. 29, lawmakers had proposed 23 trans medical ban bills, or bills prohibiting transgender kids from accessing puberty blockers and hormone therapy and punishing parents and doctors who support transgender youth receiving these services, as well as 26 bills prohibiting trans kids from playing on the sports team of their gender.

"The rise in the number of anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced this year in the Texas legislature is truly unprecedented," Ricardo Martinez, the CEO of Equality Texas, said in an August statement. "Within the past decade, legislative sessions have targeted marriage equality, bathroom access, and preemption, but the picture so abhorrently painted by anti-equality legislators in Texas this year is part of a nationally-coordinated effort to attack the humanity of our most vulnerable: transgender children."

In October, Texas lawmakers passed a trans sports ban after Republicans, including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, repeatedly pushed for it. Abbott signed the legislation into law on Oct. 25, joining eight other states that have enacted similar bans this year.

Abbott has taken a number of discriminatory, anti-LGBTQ actions in recent months, many of them focused on transgender children.

In August, the governor instructed the Texas Department of Family Protective Services to look into whether state law considers gender-affirmation surgeries for youth to be to be child abuse. The head of the agency, Jaime Masters, who was appointed by the governor, responded in the affirmative.

Experts on the subject have said that the governor and the agency's actions perpetuate harmful stereotypes about gender-affirming health care and make it seem as if minors are regularly receiving transition-related surgeries, when they are not.

The governor's increased targeting of trans kids in the past few months follows political attacks from a Republican challenger who claimed Abbott wasn't doing enough to fight againt issues of transgender equality. In August, Don Huffines, a former state lawmaker who is running against the governor in a gubernatorial primary, criticized the Department of Family and Protective Services for its web pages on suicide prevention for LGBTQ youth and other resources, claiming that they "advocate for transgender ideology."

The agency removed the web pages only hours later.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.