Hospitals Remove Trans Healthcare Information After Far-Right Attacks

That means trans patients will have a harder time accessing critical healthcare information.
Multiple health centers are limiting available public information after being targeted by right-wing social media accounts.
Multiple health centers are limiting available public information after being targeted by right-wing social media accounts. (Getty) 

One day after notorious right-wing figure Matt Walsh tweeted about a Tennessee clinic that provides critical care for trans patients, the hospital removed several pages about that care from its site—an outcome that risks making it even more difficult for trans people to access healthcare.

On Tuesday, Walsh tweeted a thread about Vanderbilt Transgender Clinic, making false accusations that healthcare providers at the clinic “castrate, sterilize, and mutilate minors,” among others. Shortly after, the Vanderbilt Clinic for Transgender Health at Vanderbilt University website was taken down, a “404: This page could not be found” error in its place. 

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Vanderbilt isn’t the only health center that’s had to limit available public information after being targeted by right-wing social media accounts. Just this week, Akron Children's Hospital in Ohio removed information about trans care from its site, including information about healthcare providers, shortly after being targeted. As Media Matters reported, in-person support group meetings for trans youth were cancelled at Lurie Children’s hospital of Chicago because of security risks. 

By losing access to healthcare information online, many patients may have a harder time figuring out what services are available to them, Ari Drennen, LGBTQ program director with progressive media watchdog Media Matters, told VICE News.

“Right-wing media have established a pattern where they'll tweet out stuff from the websites of gender-affirming care centers—stripped of any context—and then make incendiary statements on top of that,” said Drennen, who has written about this issue.

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“Many of these hospitals treat patients who live many hours away,” Drennen said. “It can be hard to find hospitals who provide good treatment options, so it's very important for information about procedures that are offered to be accessible to potential patients who are considering those procedures and for whom those procedures are medically necessary.”

In a statement emailed to VICE News, the Vanderbilt University Medical Center confirmed it is the subject of social media posts and said they “misrepresent facts about the care the medical center provides to transgender patients.” 

The hospital “began its transgender health clinic because transgender individuals are a high-risk population for mental and physical health issues and have been consistently underserved by the U.S. health system,” the statement said, adding parental consent is needed for patients under 18. 

Studies show that trans people are more likely to experience mental health struggles, including anxiety, depression, PTSD, and thoughts of suicide, than cisgender people. Puberty blockers and gender-affirming therapies, which are safe and effective, are correlated with better mental health outcomes for trans people, and teens who are able to access gender-affirming therapy typically have better mental health outcomes than trans people who have to wait until adulthood.

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But despite the evidence in support of gender-affirming therapy, there’s been an onslaught of anti-trans misinformation peddled by far-right social media accounts. And it’s not just Vanderbilt that’s been targeted—other hospitals that offer gender-affirming care, including Akron Children’s Hospital and Golisano Children's Hospital at the University of Rochester, have also been targeted by right-wing groups. Last month, the Boston Children’s Hospital received a bomb threat after a far-right group spread misinformation about is transgender healthcare program. Staff and healthcare providers were inundated with harassment, including violent threats, too, the hospital said in a statement.

“We are deeply concerned by these attacks on our clinicians and staff fueled by misinformation and a lack of understanding and respect for our transgender community,” the hospital told Boston.com

Shortly after Vanderbilt was called out, users on accounts like 4Chan started called for the murder of doctors providing care to trans youth, tweeted Alejandra Caraballo, a Harvard instructor with the Harvard Law Cyberlaw Clinic.

Drennen said the reactions online have parallels to the murder of George Tiller, an abortion provider who was killed by a man with extreme anti-abortion views. 

“There’s nothing to suggest that they're going to stop this anytime soon, which is incredibly alarming,” Drennen said.

Follow Anya Zoledziowski on Twitter.