BOSTON — With the health and safety of trans and queer youth under threat across the country, there were a few minutes of hope Wednesday in Boston when Adm. Rachel Levinethe assistant secretary for health of the Department of Health and Human Services and first transgender federal official confirmed by the United States Senate, visited the Boston Alliance of LGBTQ+ Youth.
Levine, who grew up in nearby Wakefield, Mass., toured the facility and spoke with staff and youth leaders at the local social support organization and clinic. At multiple locations across the state, BAGLY offers gay youth a place to give and receive support for their physical, social, and developmental needs.
Here’s what Levine had to say about some of the top issues facing the community today.
How Hospitals Should Respond to Harassment About Gender-Neutral Care
As part of his trip to Massachusetts, Levine made extensive rounds of hospitals across the state. As many facilities across the country face harassmentincluding death threats to providers who offer gender-responsive careLevine told the doctors “to emphasize the importance of the work they do for vulnerable, transgender and gender-diverse children and their families, and to continue to do this work and keep the faith.”
STAT previously reported that online harassment and threats prompted some hospitals to delete or modify information on their websites about the gender-affirming services they provide. Levine noted that children’s hospitals facing such attacks are the same places currently overwhelmed by a surge cases of respiratory syncytial virus.
“Hospitals facing these egregious threats must stay strong and take every precaution to protect themselves,” Levine said.
When medical advice becomes political
Last week, the Florida Board of Medicine vote to begin drafting legislation that will ban gender-affirming care such as puberty blockers, hormone therapy, or surgery for transgender minors in the state. This is an alarming decision that goes against professional medical organizations tips and against a width of to research.
“This is the first time I’ve seen medical advice armed against medical providers who provide standard, evidence-based treatment,” Levine said.
Levine, who served on the Pennsylvania Medical Board when she was the state’s Surgeon General, calls the Florida board’s decision a “unique and unprecedented situation” that does not call for increased accountability over the power wielded by medical committees.
On Thursday, the Tampa Bay Times reported that medical board members had make a donation more than $80,000 to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who has long pushed efforts to restrict transgender rights.
How the federal government will work to protect young gay men
While Massachusetts is considered a generally trans-friendly state, BAGLY executive director Grace Sterling Stowell noted that young people often come to the center and ask if what’s happening in Florida could possibly happen here.
Levine offered some reassurance: “Our community is supported at the highest level,” she said. In June, President Biden signed a Executive Decree to support LGBTQI+ communities. The administration also offers an amendment to the non-discrimination section of the Affordable Care Act to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Levine, who has visited hospitals and clinics providing gender-affirming care across the country to advocate for the importance of the services, believes that experts and The politicians target trans youth as a corner issue for the upcoming elections with reproductive rights.
“You can see a trend here in terms of attacks on rights,” she said. “I really reject the language used by the opposition. I reject their terminology. I reject their ideology.