LGBTQ+ orgs blast Joe Biden’s “cowardly” statement opposing surgeries for trans youth

HRC President Kelley Robinson speaks at Tribe during the "Slay Hate: Fight Back Tennessee" rally in Nashville , Tenn., Thursday, March 9, 2023
HRC President Kelley Robinson speaks at Tribe during the "Slay Hate: Fight Back Tennessee" rally in Nashville , Tenn., Thursday, March 9, 2023 Photo: Nicole Hester / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has issued a rare rebuke against President Joe Biden after his administration recently stated its belief that gender-affirming surgeries should only be for adults. While transgender children rarely undergo such procedures, HRC said such decisions should be left between families and medical professionals rather than politicians.

The Biden administration has repeatedly expressed support for the right of trans youth to access gender-affirming care. However, the White House said, “The Administration does not support surgery for minors,” after Fox News and The New York Times both reported on efforts by Adm. Rachel Levine, the out trans assistant secretary of health at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), to get the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) to drop its minimum age recommendations for different types of gender-affirming healthcare, including surgeries.

WPATH’s guidelines suggested a minimum age of 17 for genital surgeries or hysterectomies, 16 for breast augmentation or facial surgeries, 15 for mastectomies, and 14 for hormonal treatments, according to Fox News.

WPATH then reached out to HHS for feedback. In response, Levine told her staff that the publication of lower-age suggestions for transitional surgeries wasn’t supported by scientific research and “could lead to an onslaught of attacks on the transgender community,” the HHS said in an emailed statement explaining Levine’s position, 19th News reported.

In other words, HHS worried that Republican legislators might cite WPATH’s suggested under-18 age minimums in legislation seeking to further restrict gender-affirming healthcare for trans minors. Republicans in state legislatures nationwide have sought to block all gender-affirming care for minors, including the use of social transitioning, puberty blockers, and hormone replacement therapy.

The finalized WPATH 2022 guidelines didn’t include any age minimums, the Times reported. But when asked about its official position, the White House said it opposed gender-affirming surgeries for trans minors and cited the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) statement that such surgeries are typically reserved for adult patients.

In response, HRC President Kelley Robinson said in a statement, “The Biden administration is flat wrong on this. It’s wrong on the science and wrong on the substance…. The Biden administration, and every elected official, need to leave these decisions to families, doctors, and patients — where they belong.”

Robinson called the administration’s statement “inconsistent” with other steps it has taken to support transgender youth.

“[The] administration has committed to fight any ban on healthcare for transgender youth and must continue this without hesitation — the entire community is watching,” Robinson added. “Although transgender young people make up an extremely small percentage of youth in this country, the care they receive is based on decades of clinical research and is backed by every major medical association in the U.S. representing over 1.3 million doctors.”

Campaign for Southern Equality President Allison Scott also criticized the White House, according to The Washington Blade, writing, “This is a cowardly statement from an administration that promised to support transgender people. It is a troubling concession to the right-wing assault on transgender Americans, falling for their false narratives about surgical care and betraying a commitment to equality and trust in the medical community.”

“It is dangerous to begin endorsing categorical bans or limits on healthcare, and there is no justification for restricting transgender youth’s access to the very same care that many cisgender youth receive every year — that’s literally the definition of discrimination,” Scott wrote. “We demand the Biden administration retract this thoughtless statement and work to undo its damage.” 

As of July, 25 states have bans and restrictions on gender-affirming care for trans youth, and 16 states have passed “shield laws” to help protect families who help obtain such care for their kids. Most major medical associations in the U.S. consider gender-affirming care as safe and essential to the well-being of trans kids.

Don't forget to share:

Support vital LGBTQ+ journalism

Reader contributions help keep LGBTQ Nation free, so that queer people get the news they need, with stories that mainstream media often leaves out. Can you contribute today?

Cancel anytime · Proudly LGBTQ+ owned and operated