Right-wing media’s campaign against children’s hospitals is making it harder for trans people to access lifesaving medical care
By forcing hospitals to delete information in the face of threats, internet mobs led by Libs of Tik Tok, Matt Walsh, and other far-right influencers are creating new barriers to trans health care
Just days after the FBI arrested a suspect in the bomb threat against Boston Children’s Hospital, Libs of Tik Tok and The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh resumed their campaign against children’s hospitals that provide lifesaving care to trans people, directing followers’ attention this time to Akron Children’s Hospital and Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. Right-wing media have established a playbook for inundating hospitals with harassment and forcing them to delete information intended for trans patients from their websites — thus creating yet another barrier for trans people seeking medical care.
Libs of TikTok first targeted Boston Children’s Hospital on August 11, sharing a video about gender-affirming hysterectomies with an incendiary caption claiming that the procedure was available to “young girls.” The hospital was forced to quickly delete the video, but the narrative had been set in right-wing media, and criticism of the hospital intensified. On August 15, Walsh made the false and incendiary claim that children’s hospitals across the country were “butchering, mutilating, and sterilizing their young patients.” These attacks were followed by violent threats including threats to “execute” doctors and at least one bomb threat against Boston Children’s Hospital.
Members of the right-wing media initially dismissed the threats, with Infowars’ Owen Shroyer calling it a “false flag,” Chaya Raichik, who runs Libs of TikTok, asserting it was “probably a left-wing person trying to get me suspended,” and Walsh suggesting that it could be a left-wing hoax. It apparently was not. On September 15, the FBI announced the arrest of a suspect who allegedly called hospital operators from her personal cell phone, calling them “sickos,” saying that a bomb was on the way, and demanding that everyone evacuate.
By September 18, Libs of TikTok had returned to the campaign against children’s hospitals that provide gender-affirming care, posting a tweet disclosing that Akron Children’s provides puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones before misleadingly noting that the hospital treats patients as young as 7. On September 20, Walsh made similar claims about Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, saying it makes “lots of ‘services’ available to children, including chemical castration.”
Misinformation about treatments is rife on social media and in the right wing media, but 7-year-olds do not receive cross-sex hormones and are given puberty blockers only if another underlying disorder is causing precocious puberty. Cross-sex hormones are safe, studied, and effective treatments for gender dysphoria that dramatically reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety in trans people.
Information about where to seek out medical care is vital for trans people. Nearly half of all trans people report experiencing mistreatment from medical providers, including verbal or physical abuse. According to a 2016 study, the biggest obstacle to obtaining safe and effective health care for trans people is a lack of knowledge by medical providers.
The removal of public information intended for patients in the face of a vicious hate campaign creates a new barrier. In addition to Boston Children’s and Akron Children’s, Children’s National in Washington, D.C., and Vanderbilt Children’s in Nashville, Tennessee, have recently been forced to remove information for trans patients. Lurie Children’s hospital in Chicago canceled in-person meetings of a support group for trans youth because of security risks.
Without resistance, the barriers to effective care for trans people could grow further. According to freelance journalist Sydney Bauer, multiple medical providers have said that their worry is that these tactics will lead hospitals to drop gender-affirming care, shifting coverage to private clinics with less resources that could then be endlessly picketed and threatened — exactly the tactic that the right has used against abortion providers. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, Raichik has targeted multiple hospitals this year. After earning a weeklong suspension for violating Twitter’s policies prohibiting hateful conduct, Raichik only vowed to double down. “We are not just reporting on this,” said Walsh in a tweet. “We are going to put a stop to it.”
Among the items posted by Libs of Tik Tok about Akron Children’s Hospital is an article with a photo of a 13-year-old girl. Her hair is long and blonde and she’s posed, smiling, next to a horse. They’re sharing a blanket — red, with a white snowflake pattern. The article says that this teenager knew from age 3 that she was transgender, and that with the help of the providers at Akron Children’s, she was able to become her true self.
She’s a cheerleader. She rides horses. She says that she didn’t want to develop facial hair or for her voice to deepen. This is a story familiar to many trans people. A 2022 study from Stanford Medicine showed that trans people who accessed gender-affirming care as teenagers were less likely to experience major mental or substance abuse disorders than those who were denied care or forced to wait until adulthood.
But for Chaya Raichik, this is a horror story, and her 1.3 million followers flooded the article with hate, misgendering the trans girl and calling her “Buffalo Bill in the making,” a reference to the serial killer from the 1991 horror film The Silence of the Lambs. The article from Akron Children's closes with a line from that teenager: “If you’re transgender, show it. Tell people,” she said. “It will help other transgender people feel not so alone.” The article has since been deleted.