UT Southwestern, Children’s Health staff and students protest changes in care for trans youth

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About 200 faculty, students and community activists gathered at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center to protest the decision to close the state’s only transgender youth health program to new patients.

To mark International Transgender Day of Visibility, protesters carried transgender pride flags and faced cars driving past the medical center on Harry Hines Boulevard, prompting honks and waves of support from drivers.

At the beginning of the event, a protest organizer read a statement on behalf of members of UT Southwestern and the Children’s Health Community and their allies. “We are deeply concerned by UTSW’s recent public statements that perpetuate dangerous misinformation, as well as the institution’s failure to uphold non-discrimination policies,” the statement said.

“We are calling on UTSW and Children’s Health to immediately restore physicians’ ability to prescribe puberty suppression and hormone therapy to new patients,” the statement said. “Any other course of action is discriminatory, inconsistent with best practice and will inevitably result in harm to transgender youth and their families.”

In response to the request for comment, a spokesman for UT Southwestern referred to a joint statement from the hospitals earlier this week regarding the change in medical care for new patients.

“We continue to provide gender dysphoria assessments in adolescents, continue to provide psychiatric care for gender transition, and continue to coordinate these services,” the statement said.

Protesters gather at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center following the closure of the Genecis program, which no longer provides gender-affirming medical care to new transgender youth, Thursday, March 31, 2022, in Dallas, TX. The protest falls on Transgender Visibility Day and is being organized by the Resource Center.(Juan Figueroa / Staff Photographer)

The rally was the latest public demonstration of opposition to UT Southwestern and Children’s Health, which stopped providing gender-affirming medical care to new teenage patients in November.

On March 25, around 850 doctors, medical students and hospital staff submitted a petition to the hospital management against the decision. Hundreds of families also signed a letter detailing the impact of the changes in care on their loved ones.

The program’s top doctor is speaking out against her employers and is taking hospitals to court over the decision to stop offering gender-affirming treatments such as puberty blockers and hormone suppressors to new patients.

In an updated petition filed in Dallas County Court on Wednesday, Dr. Ximena Lopez that more than 100 potential patients have been turned away due to the program changes.

Thursday’s rally was organized by staff and students from UT Southwestern and Children’s Health and supported by local LGBTQ organizations including the Resource Center, Dallas-Fort Worth Human Rights Campaign and Equality Texas.

UT Southwestern allowed the protest to take place on campus, organizers said, and police officers from the University of Texas System were present. The Dallas Morning News could not confirm with UT Southwestern if it allowed the protest.

Protesters linked to the hospitals said they did not want to speak publicly about the changes to gender-affirming care options for fear of retribution.

Protesters carry signs during the

Patrick Hanley, a member of the Dallas-based Resource Center’s advocacy team, said the organization had been asked for additional help organizing the rally by hospital workers and students in recent weeks.

“We wanted to come out and support them and make sure their voices are heard,” Hanley said. “And we’re all here today to support best practices and to affirm care, the type of care that all credible medical associations have subscribed to.”

References to Genecis, which provided gender-affirming care to transgender and non-binary youth for seven years, were quietly removed from hospital websites in November. New patients seeking medical treatment were referred to external clinics.

A few months later, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued an advisory finding that medical treatments to confirm the sex of minors resembled child abuse. The future of access to such care for transgender youth is now up in the air as state leaders battle the use of medical treatments for gender dysphoria in youth in a Texas court.

Protesters gather at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center following the...
Protesters gather at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center following the closure of the Genecis program, which no longer provides gender-affirming medical care to new transgender youth, Thursday, March 31, 2022, in Dallas, TX. The protest falls on Transgender Visibility Day and is being organized by the Resource Center.(Juan Figueroa / Staff Photographer)

UT Southwestern and Children’s Health initially said the break-up of the program’s branding was done to provide more privacy for existing patients and their families.

Then, in a March statement, UT Southwestern said it also considered non-medical factors — such as media attention and scientific and political controversies — when deciding to change care options at Genecis.

All major national and state medical groups support age-appropriate, individualized, gender-affirming care for transgender youth. Medical interventions should only be considered for adolescents who have experienced the onset of puberty and have undergone a best practice mental health assessment.

Children's Hospital Dallas.
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