Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) promoted right-wing media lies about medical care for trans youth during the Senate confirmation hearing for Dr. Rachel Levine, who has been nominated to be the assistant secretary of health at the Department of Health and Human Services. Paul lied that Levine supports the “genital mutilation” of trans kids, who do not undergo gender affirmation surgeries.
In reality, affirming the gender identity of trans youth is best practice health care and widely supported by medical professionals and research, and it yields long-term mental health benefits and can be lifesaving for young trans people. Furthermore, young trans and gender-diverse children are not undergoing surgery or irreversible treatments; rather, as social work professor Katherine Kuvalanka told The Washington Post, “The only interventions for young children is affirmation and acceptance for who they are.”
Despite these facts, Paul repeatedly and falsely suggested during Levine’s February 25 hearing that trans kids were undergoing “genital mutilation” and lied that Levine supports “surgical destruction of a minor’s genitalia.” As PinkNews has noted, these false claims are based on right-wing media lies attacking Levine’s nomination:
Fanatical Trump anti-LGBT+ outlets Newsmax and The National Pulse have now joined the misinformation train, with Newsmax claiming without any basis in reality that Levine supports “gender reassignment surgery for pre-pubescent children”.
The articles point to tweets from Levine sharing research on puberty blockers – reversible drugs that are prescribed to trans teenagers – as well as her presence at a 2012 medical conference where she led a session exploring “medical care for transgender youth”.
However, at no point does Levine support reassignment surgery on trans children, which is routinely restricted to adults over the age of 18 across most of the US.
Paul also cited the deceptively named anti-LGBTQ group American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds) to falsely claim that most kids with gender dysphoria will stop being trans. In reality, research shows that trans children sense their gender identities at a young age. According to the American Psychological Association, “Children usually have a sense of their gender identity between age 2 to 5 and they typically become cognizant of their sexual orientation around age 9 or 10, although this self-awareness is occurring at earlier ages, particularly as it is a topic more widely discussed and available to younger children.”
ACPeds is an extreme anti-LGBTQ group made up of a few hundred physicians who broke off from the legitimate American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) -- which has more than 67,000 members -- after it began supporting the right of same-sex couples to adopt children and provide foster care. The AAP supports best practice health care for trans youth. ACPeds has long peddled myths about trans youth that are popular in right-wing media.
Rand Paul’s baseless claims come straight from right-wing media
Paul’s anti-trans lies about surgery and “mutilation” parrot the myths that right-wing media and anti-LGBTQ groups regularly use to fearmonger and spread disinformation about best practice medical care for trans youth -- particularly the false claim that kids are undergoing “radical, life-altering decisions” that are irreversible.
Right-wing media have wielded these and other anti-trans attacks against Levine since she was first nominated in January. If confirmed, she will be the first openly trans federal official confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Notably, Fox News host Laura Ingraham attacked Levine for supporting health care for trans youth on February 23, two days before her hearing.
Moreover, right-wing content about trans kids’ health care is pervasive online and skews the public's understanding of the issue. A Media Matters study of Facebook content about trans topics earning at least 100,000 interactions (likes, comments, and shares) during a one-year time period found that content about trans issues from right-leaning sources “earned nearly two times the engagement of all other sources combined” on Facebook. Overall, 12% of that content was from right-leaning sources writing about medical care for trans youth, earning a total of 8.31 million Facebook interactions.
This deluge of anti-trans misinformation has dire impacts on the trans community. State legislatures around the country are advancing measures to ban and criminalize best practice care for trans youth, and similar efforts in the past have been fueled by the anti-trans misinformation spread by anti-LGBTQ groups and right-wing media.