The conservative activist Matt Walsh made numerous misleading and false statements about transgender health and VMUC.
In a recent witter thread and podcast, conservative commentator Matt Walsh made several inflammatory claims against a Nashville-based transgender clinic. He accused the transgender clinic at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUC) of "drugging" and "mutilating" minors for financial profit. According to Walsh, the medical field has been "infiltrated" by "left-wing cultists and LGBTQ extremists," and healthcare institutions like Vanderbilt sacrifice "science and ethics on the alter of gender ideology." Following his claims, 62 Tennesse House Republicans signed a letter calling on VUC to pause gender surgeries on minors.
Walsh's statements are full of inaccuracies. Characterizing transgender care at large, or VMUC’s clinic specifically, as "mutilation" and "butchering," twists the facts and causes more hostility towards an already-targeted community. Using incendiary language, Walsh misleads readers to think minors are coerced to get gender-affirming health care treatments.
Medical intervention is one of many options following best practices for treating gender dysphoria, a condition that causes intense discomfort or distress. The American Psychiatry Association says that treatment for dysphoria has a variety of forms, including therapy, exploring gender identity or presentation, and medical intervention. They report that attempts to coerce or force a person to be cisgender "are considered unethical and have been linked to adverse mental health outcomes.”
Rather than coercion or careless access to surgery, clinics that offer transgender care to minors require proactively informing patients about the risks, as with any other form of medical care. The World Professional Association of Transgender Health (WPAH) recently released the 8th edition of their guidelines for care, and they recommend a proactive and careful approach, informing youth about the quality of evidence available on transgender care, about the potential for regret of transition, and the potential for loss of fertility following any medical interventions for transgender care.
Transgender care for minors, including surgeries, is legal and requires parental consent. A recent statement from VMUC, issued in response to Walsh’s allegations, reads, "VMUC requires parental consent to treat a minor patient who is to be seen for issues related to transgender care, and never refuses parental involvement in the care of transgender youth who are under age 18."
An article in the Tennessee Lookout confirms that while pediatric surgeries as transgender care can happen at VMUC, it can only happen under limited circumstances: a letter from licensed mental health professionals that document a history of persistent gender dysphoria, their treatment for that dysphoria, as well as ensuring that the patient is fully capable of understanding the surgery.
Walsh is also wrong about calling gender-affirming hormones like puberty blockers "irreversible." According to Trans Care BC, a gender-affirming health care resource hub, puberty blockers' effects are reversible if a person stops taking them. Puberty blockers are neither new nor unsafe. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved puberty blockers in 1993. CNN reports that gender-diverse youth who are prescribed puberty-blocking hormones have "lower odds of lifetime suicidal ideation" than those who are denied treatment.
Following Walsh's claims, Tennesse governor Bill Lee has called for an investigation into VMUC's transgender services. According to the Tennesse Lookout, Republican lawmakers want to pass a bill in 2023 preventing VMUC from performing transgender surgeries on minors. This follows a bill passed in 2021 which bans transgender hormone treatment for prepubescent minors, which according to NBC was not actually taking place anywhere in the state as it goes against the Endocrine Society's best practice recommendations.
Over the last two years, several Republican states have passed bills targeting transgender youth and adults. In April 2022, the Tenessee Senate passed a bill that bans transgender girls from participating in girls' sports.
VMUC is not mutilating minors. All pediatric transgender surgeries at the clinic require parental consent and are only performed under extremely limited circumstances. We mark this claim as false.