UT Southwestern, Children’s Health employees and students protest change in care for trans youth

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 care program to new patients.

Marking International Transgender Day of Visibility, the protesters carried transgender pride flags and faced cars passing by the medical center on Harry Hines Boulevard, eliciting honks and waves of support from drivers.

At the start of the event, a protest organizer read a statement on behalf of UT Southwestern and Children’s Health community members 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 nondiscrimination policies,” the statement said.

“We call 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 request for comment, a UT Southwestern spokesperson pointed to a joint statement issued by the hospitals earlier this week regarding the change in medical care for new patients.

“We continue to provide evaluations for gender dysphoria in youths, continue to provide psychiatric care for gender transition and continue the coordination of these services,” the statement said.

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

The rally was the latest public display of dissent against UT Southwestern and Children’s Health, which halted gender-affirming medical care for new adolescent patients in November.

On March 25, about 850 doctors, medical students and employees at the hospitals submitted a petition to hospital leadership opposing the decision. Hundreds of families also signed a letter detailing the effect of the changes to care on their loved ones.

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

In an updated petition filed Wednesday in Dallas County court, Dr. Ximena Lopez said that more than 100 prospective patients have been turned away due to the program’s changes.

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

UT Southwestern permitted the protest on campus grounds, organizers said, and University of Texas System police officers were present. The Dallas Morning News could not confirm with UT Southwestern whether it permitted the protest.

Protestors connected to the hospitals said they did not want to speak publicly about the changes in gender-affirming care options out of fear of retribution.

Patrick Hanley, an advocacy team member at Dallas-based Resource Center, said the organization was approached by hospital employees and students in the last few weeks for additional support in organizing the rally.

“We wanted to come out and support them and make sure their voices were heard,” Hanley said. “And we’re all here today in support of best-practice, affirming care, the type of care that all credible medical associations have signed on to.”

References to Genecis, which provided gender-affirming care to transgender and nonbinary youth for seven years, were quietly removed from the hospitals’ websites in November. New patients seeking medical treatments were referred to outside clinics.

A few months later, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued an opinion that medical gender-affirming treatments for minors akin to child abuse. The future of access to such care for trans youth is now up in the air as state leaders battle the use of medical treatments for gender dysphoria in adolescents in Texas court.

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

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

Then, in a March statement, UT Southwestern said it also considered nonmedical factors – like media attention and scientific and political controversy – when making the decision to change care options at Genecis.

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

Children's Medical Center Dallas.

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