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Trans man sues hospital for refusing trans patients surgeries that it offers cis patients

A doctor and a patient
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An 18-year-old transgender man in Colorado filed a lawsuit against Children’s Hospital Colorado, alleging that the hospital is discriminating against transgender patients by refusing to perform surgeries for trans patients that it offers to cisgender patients.

The plaintiff, identified in court documents with the alias Caden Kent, says that he was supposed to receive top surgery from the hospital. He was diagnosed with gender dysphoria several years prior, and the top surgery was consistent with the accepted standard of care for trans men.

But in July 2023, a physician’s assistant called Kent’s father and told him that transgender people could no longer get that surgery, even though it performed the surgery on cisgender people who needed it. The lawsuit says that cis men get the same surgery for pretty much the same reasons as trans men do if they develop breasts and that the hospital performs breast reduction surgery on young women as well.

Kent, with the ACLU of Colorado, is suing, saying that this is discrimination in violation of the state’s anti-discrimination act. Kent said that he had significant distress caused by his breasts and that he couldn’t even leave the house without his binder. He said that it hurt if he kept his binder on too long, and he couldn’t participate in sports with a binder. He stopped going to work and withdrew from relationships because of the dysphoria his chest was causing him.

After the phone call, he said he started to “experience feelings of hopelessness” and anxiety. He now worries about being misgendered and feels “crushed” that he waited eight months for the surgery that never happened. Moreover, his family now has to pay for the surgery themselves instead of with insurance in order to get it done before he starts college.

Children’s Hospital Colorado never provided gender-affirming surgery to minors. It only performed such surgeries for trans patients over the age of 18. But in July last year, it “largely scrubbed references to gender-affirming care from its website.”

“Children’s hospitals across the country have been directly threatened as a result of the gender-affirming care provided in their institutions,” Rachael Fowler, a spokesperson for Children’s Hospital Colorado, said at the time. Right-wing claims about gender-affirming doctors “sexually mutilating children’s genitals” have led to bomb and death threats against hospitals and healthcare providers.

Fowler said that such threats at other hospitals didn’t influence her hospital’s decision. Rather, her hospital made its decision after experiencing “unprecedented referrals” for surgery at its facility, she said.

“Caden came forward to protect other transgender people from the discrimination he experienced,” said ACLU of Colorado attorney Emma Mclean-Riggs in a statement. “Transgender people have the right to access necessary medical care, without fear that they may be denied that care because of who they are. Medical providers should ensure their policies and practices are non-discriminatory or prepare to be held accountable in court.”  

The hospital isn’t commenting on the lawsuit.

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