CHOP tightens security following threats to its gender and sexuality clinic

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As a result of conservative social media influencers who continue to spread misinformation about gender-affirming care for youth, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) has been receiving threats targeting its Gender & Sexuality Development Clinic. 

“As a result, we have taken a series of security and other measures both to ensure the safety of our staff and to safeguard the resources our patients and families need for quality care,” according to a statement from CHOP. 

Hospitals nationwide have received mounting threats of violence, along with healthcare providers and parents of children who pursue gender-affirming care. The American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association and Children’s Hospital Association collectively urged the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate. CHOP fully supports the organizations’ joint statement on the matter, the spokesperson said.  

“The threats against hospitals over gender-affirming care are frightening to say the least,” Celena Morrison, executive director of Philadelphia’s Office of LGBT Affairs, said in a statement. “We worry that these threats may have a horrific impact on the ability of young people to access crucial and sometimes lifesaving medical care. That is unacceptable. Patients seeking treatment deserve to get the affirming care they need without fear for their personal safety, and medical providers should never have to face threats for the critical work they do.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that social media accounts with wide follower bases posted clips of CHOP lectures in which healthcare providers talk about gender-affirming care for children and youth. The posts frame this kind of medical care as unethical. 

Media Matters for America, an online research center that keeps tabs on and corrects conservative misinformation in American media, reported that conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec, who creates content on Youtube via the channel Real America’s Voice, falsely claimed that a doctor in CHOP’s gender clinic is carrying out gender-related surgical experiments on children experiencing homelessness.

Darius McLean, who currently works as director of the Arcila-Adams Trans Resource Center, worked at CHOP’s Gender & Sexuality Clinic several years ago. 

“Working in healthcare and working with trans kids, often what I would see is there’s one parent that’s on board and one that’s not, or maybe both of them aren’t on board,” McLean said. “Instead of being able to help our children, we’re making it more difficult. The thing that we need to do is protect them in their innocence and let them grow, because it’s already tough enough, especially our kids growing up in Philly. Gender identity is one of the things they’re discovering at that age, but it’s so much more.”

The misinformation and threats are “a distraction,” McLean said. “To me it’s about controlling and policing people’s bodies and not trusting that they know themselves. A lot of times kids know themselves better than we do as adults, in some aspects.”

A mother of a trans child who utilized CHOP’s gender clinic spoke on the condition of anonymity because she doesn’t feel safe in today’s climate, she said. 

“[CHOP doctors] met with my son and me together, and met with me and my son separately,” the anonymous parent said. “They asked him questions about what he was thinking, how he was feeling, asked him if he had selected any pronouns without actually prompting him. They also do not have an agenda. Their goal is to make the child comfortable to express themselves in whatever way the child is expressing themselves at the time. It’s very much a collaborative effort with the parents, with the child. They’re certainly not forcing people to transition.”

In the event that known anti-LGBTQ Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano wins the election this November, the anonymous parent said she and her family are considering moving out of Pennsylvania out of fear that gender-affirming healthcare will be criminalized. When her child goes through puberty, she needs to have access to the proper healthcare for him, she said.  

“For someone like me who will be immediately facing what kind of care I need to provide to my child at that time, and to the extent that the folks at CHOP are so [impacted] by what’s going on that they either have to shut down or they don’t provide the services they currently provide, this would mean that we would either have to go out of state or go without services. They are not acceptable options.”

Another former client of CHOP’s gender clinic, a mother with a trans daughter, also wished to remain anonymous because she too does not feel safe in the face of attacks on gender-affirming healthcare providers. 

“The help my daughter got from CHOP gave us back a relationship with her and taught our family a great deal about acceptance and preconceived ideas,” the mother said in an email. “We learned to ask for help and do our own research in order to come to the best possible medical conclusion for our child. She went on to have an incredibly fulfilling high school career in a school that accepted her and supported her. Incidentally, our church and youth group leaders also accepted and provided incredible support during that time.” 

She also commented on the baseless misinformation that sparked the threats against CHOP and other hospitals, chalking it up to fear mongering.   

“I am highly alarmed by threats to gender clinics,” the mother said. “These threats come from people who have not walked a day in our shoes. They have not taken the time to educate themselves on a very personal issue that they really have no business being involved in. If they truly think that parents and doctors want to harm kids, they are misinformed by second or third-hand talking points fed to them by mean-spirited political players. This is the same kind of fear mongering employed to attack gay marriage and abortion.”