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TransActive Gender Center: Fox News Gets It Wrong
A story aired on FoxNews about Oregon's coverage of healthcare for transgender youth spreads misinformation, innuendo, archaic clinical opinion through intentionally transphobic and disrespectful terminology in referencing transgender healthcare.
Fox News aired a report and published a story on July 9th under the headline: "Oregon allowing 15-year-olds to get state-subsidized sex-change operations". In the online article by reporter Dan Springer, there are statements made that purport to be factual but in reality are anything but.
The online article states that "[In Oregon] 15-year-olds are now allowed to get a sex-change operation...without parental notification...and the state will even pay for it through its Medicaid program, the Oregon Health Plan."
Fox News' parsing of the facts and exclusion of more accurate detail results in a journalistic implication that Oregon is providing secret 'on-demand' gender affirmation surgery (pejoratively and archaically referred to as "sex-change operations") to 15-year-old teenagers willy-nilly.
In fact, Oregon has recognized 15 to be the age of consent for medical care since 1971...more than 40 years ago (ORS 109.640).
And while both the online and televised Fox News reporting neglected to mention it, the Oregon Health Plan coverage has clear requirements for comprehensive mental health assessment and subsequent referral by a qualified mental health provider experienced in gender dysphoria-related care prior to provision of any type of transgender medical intervention.
This coverage was added based in part on testimony prepared by TransActive Gender Center staff and medical and mental health advisors. The decision to offer this care consistent with existing Oregon age of consent for medical care was based on the compelling research and clinical evidence that indicates early intervention and affirming care results in significantly lowered rates of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and suicidal ideation/attempts.
Additionally, as peer-reviewed evidence indicates, and as we have experienced clinically first-hand at TransActive Gender Center, early intervention and access to physician and counselor approved care, including pubertal delay and cross-sex hormone therapy results in consistent and almost universal improvement in well-being, psychological function, peer-engagement, school performance and overall quality of life for transgender adolescents and teens.
The Fox News story includes an opinion by Dr. Paul McHugh, the long-since retired psychiatrist from the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore that Oregon's policy "amounts to child abuse". Also cited is the opinion of Dr. Jack Drescher who believes that treatment with cross-sex hormones and surgery should be withheld until the age of 18 years old.
There are many professionals and advocates though, who disagree with both Dr. McHugh and Dr. Drescher, and there is a growing body of evidence to support such disagreement. Fox News however, failed to include commentary and professional opinion that reflects the predominant, trans youth-affirming models of care in use at more than 40 gender clinics throughout the United States.
Dr. McHugh states in the article that, "We can help [transgender youth] if we begin to explore with them and their families what they're fearing about development, what they're fearing about being a young boy, a young adolescent appropriate to themselves."
To some, Dr. McHugh's approach is reminiscent of so-called 'reparative' or 'change-therapy', which coerces youth into conforming to gender normative behavior and stereotypes. That type of treatment has been declared unethical, ineffective and dangerous to transgender and gender diverse youth and has been prohibited in several states, including Oregon, California and New Jersey.
The Fox News story goes on to invade TransActive Gender Center founder and executive director Jenn Burleton's right to privacy regarding her private medical information, none of which was discussed during her interview with reporter Dan Springer.
The article states that Ms. Burleton "underwent sex-reassignment surgery and started the Portland non-profit group TransActive".
While it is true that Jenn Burleton is a founder of TransActive Gender Center, purporting to know anything about her private medical information is an egregious violation of common decency and respect for privacy. It is also, and this point cannot be overstressed, entirely irrelevant to the story.
Fox News' comments about the status of Ms. Burleton's genitalia is a blatant example of Fox News' continued display of transmisogynistic and transphobic attitudes and reporting standards.
The FoxNews.com article also misrepresents comments made by Ms. Burleton to Fox reporter Dan Springer with regard to parental consent prior to delivery of medical care. The implication is that Ms. Burleton is not in favor of parental involvement in these decision making processes with their children and youth.
Nothing could be further from the truth, nor could it be further from the context of her answer to the reporter's question.
The core tenet of TransActive Gender Center’s philosophy of care is to help families of transgender youth increase connection and resiliency, so that families can remain intact, supported and able to optimize their children’s lifelong health outcomes. We do so by making every attempt to engage family members, including aunts, uncles, grandparents and siblings, in our counseling process so they can work through their own unique experiences and access credible information to support their transgender family member.
In fact, TransActive follows established professional guidelines for medical transition-related procedures, all of which strongly encourage parental support of and commitment to this model of care. It is only as a last resort that TransActive advocates forgoing parental involvement or consent for youth age 15 and over, and this is only in circumstances in which parents, caregivers or guardians have shown persistent and consistent attitudes and behaviors that are harmful and obstructive to their child's best interests.
An example of the need for this type of intervention is the case of 17-year old Ohio teen Leelah Alcorn who took her own life in December 2014 as a direct result of the lack of parental support for her gender identity and her parents' refusal to consent to her accessing qualified mental health and medical care.
In such instances, access to care without parental consent is vital and lifesaving.
Fox News' irresponsible reporting on this complex issue serves only to rev up audience anger and outrage towards transgender kids and those who seek to serve the needs of transgender children, youth and their families.
TransActive Gender Center stands strongly behind its work with these kids and their families, and our efforts to increase access to equitable, beneficial and evidence-based healthcare and human rights for transgender and gender diverse individuals of all ages.
TransActive Gender Center is a non-profit organization providing holistic services and expertise to transgender and gender diverse children, youth and their families to help them live healthy lives, free from discrimination.