Doctors and facilities that provide gender-affirming care to transgender, nonbinary, and question youth have come under attack over the last few months. These medical services help transgender and nonbinary youth feel more comfortable in their own skin, which can reduce rates of depression, anxiety, and thoughts of suicide. These treatments are completely reversible without inhibiting the child’s development.
A new report from the Human Rights Campaign shows that online harassment campaigns targeted 24 medical facilities and providers over the last few months. The threats took place between August and November of this year across 21 states. They were targeted at major institutions like Boston Children’s Hospital, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN.
Researchers with the HRC looked at information posted to Facebook and Twitter. They looked at accounts such as Libs of TikTok, Matt Walsh, an anti-transgender host on the alt-right news site The Daily Wire, and others that tend to spread hateful messages.
“As threats against the transgender community continue to rise — especially impacting Black, brown and young transgender people — it is crucial that we look at who are the major players fueling this campaign of hatred,” Kelley Robinson, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a news release.
“This report confirms what we have suspected for some time: these dangerous accounts are playing a major role in causing harm to healthcare providers and patients. They are no longer just making the internet an unsafe place for transgender people and allies. The ruthlessness and the vitriol has long ago expanded beyond the confines of the screen to spawn threats of physical harm on people.”
Boston Children’s Hospital confirmed that police investigated an anonymous bomb threat on August 30 after threats were made regarding its Gender Multispecialty Service program. The police didn’t find any explosives, but the hospital had to go on lockdown during the investigation, which delayed countless operations and medical services. Police ultimately charged a woman from Westfield, MA with the threat. A man from Cananda was also arrested after making several bomb threats against hospitals in the Boston area, including Boston Children’s.
The American Academy of Pediatrics and American Medical Association and Children’s Hospital Association asked the Justice Department in October to investigate the organizations, individuals, and entities responsible for the threats and harassment.
According to the report, most of the threats took place on social media. They spread false or misleading information about gender-affirming care and use violent rhetoric to encourage real-world violence on clinics and providers. The posts have led to harassing phone calls, death threats, and bomb threats.
- HRC identified what it calls the five-part cycle of violence:
- Accounts or individuals post false information about gender-affirming care and call out a provider or facility by name.
- The doctor or facility starts receiving a barrage of hateful messages online or over the phone.
- Doctors and providers face threats offline as well, including at their homes and workplaces. In the worst cases, doctors receive death threats and hospitals receive bomb threats, halting medical procedures.
- Extremist politicians give credence to these threats by spreading trans-phobic threats online or on right-wing platforms. They also introduce legislation targeting children’s hospitals and gender-affirming healthcare providers.
- This then forces some hospitals and providers to remove gender-affirming services from their website to protect the safety of the patients and staff.
In another instance, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee and the state Attorney General called for an investigation into the gender-affirming care program at Vanderbilt University just 24 hours after Matt Walsh tweeted that the clinic would “castrate, sterilize, and mutilate minors.”
These kinds of disruptions have real-world consequences for patients and providers. “In one hospital, a new mother was prevented from being with her preterm infant because the hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit was on lockdown due to a bomb threat,” the report states.