Patients and families at children’s hospitals are under attack and that is not OK.
Boston Children’s Hospital and other pediatric hospitals around the country have experienced threats, harassment — even a bomb scare — for providing health care to children and teenagers in their gender health programs.
We stand in solidarity with Boston Children’s and all caregivers, patients and families who face harm simply by delivering or receiving basic health care services for LGBTQ + children and families.
Two of our Kid Experts discussed what’s important to know about this situation and what action people should take. Excerpts from their conversation are below.
Dr. Angela Kade Goepferd (AKG) (they/she) is the medical director of the Gender Health program at Children’s Minnesota.
James Burroughs (JB) (he/him) is senior vice president of government and community relations, and chief equity and inclusion officer at Children’s Minnesota.
Boston affects all of us
AKG: When a particular group and their health care providers are targeted in this way, it significantly impacts those kids and families, as well as all of the kids and families who receive care. At Boston Children’s, they had to shut down access to their hospital because of a bomb threat.
JB: It’s not just an LGBTQ issue. It’s an issue for all families and all people. Safety and health should be provided without fear of violent threats against someone getting care. It’s a scary thought to imagine making a choice between receiving high quality health care needed by your child, or protecting your child’s safety and well-being from a violent attack because people do not accept them for who they are.
I don’t want families to say no one spoke up when they needed them. I want people to feel that we’re willing to fight for their rights to be who they are.
AKG: The care that takes place between a medical provider and their patients is sacred. Parents are involved in the care of their kids. Pediatricians are involved in the care of their kids. Someone who lives next door shouldn’t be involved.
It worries me that this appears to be some sort of threshold that’s been crossed where this type of behavior is allowed, or people think it’s OK. It’s never OK to attack kids and families.
What kids need to know
AKG: I want our kids to know that they are perfect, just the way they are. They don’t have to be brave on their own in the face of this. There are adults, and pediatricians, and all of us at Children’s Minnesota who are with them and looking out for them and making sure they get the health care that they deserve.
JB: I want our kids to know that they are valued, that they are loved. We care about them, exactly who they are. You don’t have to change to adapt to people’s hatred. That hatred is ignorant. The hatred is not what we believe at Children’s Minnesota and the hatred is something we will fight against. We love all kids at Children’s Minnesota.
AKG: We celebrate who transgender and gender-diverse kids are precisely because of who they are. Who they are is changing how we all perceive humanity and gender and each other.
All kids deserve health care
AKG: Gender-affirming care for kids is health care. It’s endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics and literally every other major reputable medical association in the United States and internationally. We are following evidence-based, research-based, widely adopted care, both here at Children’s Minnesota and at Boston Children’s.
That’s what we do for all kids whether they are cancer patients or sickle cell patients or asthma patients.
Be visible with your views
AKG: Visible support is really important. Whether that’s in your conversations with friends and family or a yard sign or a pin or a button or something that you wear.
Also recognizing that here in Minnesota there was anti-transgender legislation introduced this year specifically targeting kids. Anyone can pick up the phone and call a legislator and let their views be known.
Donate to organizations that support or advocate for transgender kids and their families. Nationally, those would be groups like the ACLU and the Human Rights Campaign. But here in Minnesota, those would be groups like OutFront Minnesota or Transforming Families or QUEERSPACE collective, with whom we have a partnership.
JB: I love the idea of a visible sign. We have our Pride buttons, and I always joke with Angela about this — wear a Pride button, but not just in the month of June. Support Pride throughout the year.
Also, learn more. I think part of this is ignorance. Part of people being quiet is them not knowing what it means to be a trans kid. It’s important to ask questions. If you don’t know, you make assumptions and those assumptions can lead to bad thoughts or bad actions. LGBTQ + patients and families are real people.
AKG: I want our local community of transgender and gender diverse kids and their families to know that we are standing up for them with our words and our actions. We are actively partnering with organizations like Queerspace Collective and Transforming Families so that LGBTQ kids in our community are celebrated and are able to thrive.
Note: When it comes to caring for trans and non-binary kids, there are lots of misconceptions. These Talking Pediatrics podcast episodes help separate fact from fiction:
Dr. Angela Kade Goepferd, (they/she)
Chief education officer, chief of staff and medical director of the Gender Health program
Dr. Angela Kade Goepferd, (they/she), is the chief education officer, chief of staff, pediatrician and medical director of the Gender Health program at Children’s Minnesota. Dr. Goepferd is an advocate for advancing equitable health care for all children – including trans and gender-diverse youth. They have been named a Top Doctor by both Minneapolis/St. Paul Magazine and Minnesota Monthly for the last several years and gave their first TED talk, “The Revolutionary Truth about Kids and Gender Identity” at TEDx Minneapolis in 2020.
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