U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra has announced a set of steps the federal government will take to protect transgender young people.
Becerra’s announcement was included with a statement released Wednesday by President Joe Biden calling a new Texas anti-trans policy “government overreach at its worst.” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott recently ordered investigations of parents who allow their children to receive gender-affirming medical care, something that Abbott and his attorney general have deemed child abuse. Due to a lawsuit, the investigation of one family has been stopped by a court, and the court will consider a farther-reaching injunction against the policy.
The steps announced by Becerra, following several statements of support for trans kids by Biden, are aimed not only at Texas but the entire nation, as numerous states are debating or have already passed anti-trans legislation. Arkansas is the only one so far to have adopted a law barring minors from receiving gender-affirming care, but it has been blocked by a court while a lawsuit against it proceeds.
Becerra’s announcement, available on the HHS website, includes the following:
• HHS is releasing guidance to state child welfare agencies making clear that states should use these agencies to advance safety and support for LGBTQ+ youth, including access to gender-affirming care.
• HHS is releasing guidance on patient privacy, clarifying that, despite the Texas government’s threat, health care providers are not required to disclose private patient information related to gender-affirming care.
• HHS has issued guidance making clear that denials of health care based on gender identity are illegal, as is restricting doctors and health care providers from providing care because of a patient’s gender identity.
• Becerra has called on all of HHS to explore all options to protect children and their parents, caretakers, and families.
• HHS will ensure that families and health care providers in Texas are aware of all the resources available to them if they face discrimination as a result of Abbott’s order. These include an online portal to file a complaint with the HHS Office of Civil Rights.
Becerra further called the Texas policy “discriminatory and unconscionable” as well as “clearly dangerous to the health of transgender youth in Texas.” He added, “At HHS, we listen to medical experts and doctors, and they agree with us, that access to affirming care for transgender youth is essential and can be life-saving. HHS is committed to protecting young Americans who are targeted because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and supporting their parents, caretakers and families.”
LGBTQ+ organizations praised the show of support by Becerra and Biden.
“Health and Human Services is sending clear and direct guidance to every child agency that their number one job is to protect children, and that includes protection from discriminatory behavior and orders from elected officials targeting them,” said a statement from GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. “Governor Abbott’s campaign adviser recently admitted that he sees attacking vulnerable youth as a campaign strategy. Here is the truth: spreading disinformation about LGBTQ people puts children and families in danger. President Biden and HHS are basing their policies in recommendations from every major medical association supporting gender-affirming care as evidence-based and lifesaving for vulnerable youth. President Biden accurately said that affirming a trans child’s identity is one of the best things that a parent, teacher or doctor can do to protect them from harm. These are huge steps reflecting growing LGBTQ acceptance, representation and visibility at the highest levels of government, with actions and statements that will save lives. GLAAD urges every American to demand their elected officials follow the President’s lead to protect the most marginalized citizens, secure their rights to live in safety, and amplify facts over misinformation weaponized for political gain.”
Kevin Jennings, CEO of Lambda Legal, released this statement: “Lambda Legal praises both the President and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra for taking historic action to shield trans youth from having the child welfare system weaponized against them by leaders who have shown that they care nothing about their welfare; to emphasize the critical need to affirm and support all LGBTQ+ youth in state care; and to promote family acceptance programs that allow young people to remain safely with their parents and never enter the child protection system.”
“President Biden and his administration are standing up for transgender kids in Texas and around the country and we are grateful for their leadership,” added Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. “We know that gender-affirming health care saves lives, can improve mental health and reduce depression and anxiety. And yet, Gov. Abbott has put a target on transgender youth and their families. The Biden administration is making clear that this assault is discriminatory and will not stand.”