Biden administration says it opposes gender-affirming surgeries for trans youth

The White House. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

The Biden administration has come out against gender-affirming surgeries for transgender youth, according to an email statement provided by a White House spokesperson to The 19th News on July 2.

“These are deeply personal decisions and we believe these surgeries should be limited to adults,” the spokesperson stated to The 19th News. “We continue to support gender-affirming care for minors, which represents a continuum of care, and respect the role of parents, families, and doctors in these decisions.”

Medical experts say gender-affirming surgeries for trans minors are rare. Speaking with Watermark last November, Brian Martinez, senior operations director of Hope & Health, called surgical care on minors “basically non-existent.”

The Biden administration’s statement drew criticism from several LGBTQ+ organizations. Allison Scott from Campaign for Southern Equality called the White House’s statement “cowardly” saying it’s 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.”

“Let’s be very, very clear: Government has no business inserting itself into private medical decisions that should be exclusively between patients, their providers, and the patients’ parent or guardian,” Scott said. “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. We demand the Biden Administration retract this thoughtless statement and work to undo its damage.”

Kelley Robinson, president of the Human Rights Campaign, issued a rebuke of the administration’s position, stating that “health care decisions for young people belong between a patient, their family, and their health care provider” adding that “trans youth are no exception.”

“The Biden administration is flat wrong on this,” Robinson said. “It’s wrong on the science and wrong on the substance. It’s also inconsistent with other steps the administration has taken to support transgender youth. The Biden administration, and every elected official, need to leave these decisions to families, doctors and patients—where they belong. 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.”

The Biden administration’s statement on its opposition to gender-affirming surgeries in trans youth was in response to a New York Times article reporting that staff in the office of Adm. Rachel Levine, an assistant secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services, had urged the World Professional Association for Transgender Health to remove age minimums for surgery from its treatment guidelines for minors.

“The draft guidelines would have lowered the age minimums to 14 for hormonal treatments, 15 for mastectomies, 16 for breast augmentation or facial surgeries, and 17 for genital surgeries or hysterectomies,” the NYT’s reported. “The final guidelines, released in 2022, removed the age-based recommendations altogether.”

In that report, an HHS spokesman stated that “Adm. Levine shared her view with her staff that publishing the proposed lower ages for gender transition surgeries was not supported by science or research, and could lead to an onslaught of attacks on the transgender community.”

While the Biden administration seems to oppose gender-affirming surgeries, the White House spokesperson says it still supports all other gender-affirming care for trans youth and that President Joe Biden still stands with the entire transgender community.

“As President Biden has repeatedly said, ‘It’s wrong that extreme officials are pushing hateful bills targeting transgender children, terrifying families, and criminalizing doctors,” the White House spokesperson said. “These are our kids. These are our neighbors. It’s cruel and it’s callous.’ Transgender children have been the victims of unacceptable bullying, hate and partisan laws that target them for who they are.”

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