". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13

Commentary

White House Blunders, Backtracks on Gender Transition Surgeries for Minors

July 10, 2024

For more than a week now, the White House has been hurtling from one bad news cycle to the next, unable to strike a message that will diffuse the media frenzy. And, no, I’m not talking about President Biden’s health; the issue is gender transition surgeries for minors.

The cascading explosions began in late June (the holiest month of the LGBT calendar), of all times, when The New York Times, of all outlets, revealed that Biden administration officials pushed the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) to scrap minimum age limits (15 for mastectomies, 16 for breast augmentation or facial surgeries, and 17 for genital surgeries or hysterectomies) for gender transition procedures from the 2022 edition of its recommended treatment protocols, anticipating a wave of red-state restrictions if such a recommendation was made public.

In other words, the Biden administration was always on board with gender transition procedures for minors, including surgeries, despite the public’s opposition. They just wanted to hide the extent and true nature of the gender transition procedures being provided to minors. To bury that information, they lobbied a so-called medical organization (Daily Signal managing editor Tyler O’Neil has characterized it more accurately as “a transgender activist group masquerading as a health organization”) to edit its medical recommendation (more on this later).

Biblical wisdom would have warned the Biden administration that “nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light” (Luke 8:17).

Sure enough, the conspiracy leaked, and a major mainstream newspaper published not only the political calculation behind removing the age minimums but also the Biden administration’s complicity in the scheme.

This was an embarrassment for the Biden administration because the president is standing for reelection this year. And supporting the permanent sterilization of healthy, minor teenagers over their hurt feelings — so long as it is done secretly — is not a popular practice among ordinary Americans. A nationwide study found in 2022 that nearly 80% of Americans oppose gender transition procedures for minors.

In an attempt to contain the political damage, the White House distributed a statement to media that could be reasonably interpreted as opposing gender transition surgeries for minors. “These are deeply personal decisions[,] and we believe these surgeries should be limited to adults,” they suggested. “We continue to support gender-affirming care for minors, which represents a continuum of care, and respect the role of parents, families, and doctors in these decisions.”

The White House hoped this would strike the right tone. They could still seem supportive of gender transition procedures for minors, while ducking any outrage aimed at surgically transitioning children. Such an admission would be relatively harmless, they figured; in their public messaging, transgender activist groups often leave the impression that gender transition surgeries on minors aren’t even happening anyway.

Within days, transgender activists had pummeled the White House with a rhetorical drubbing. “The Biden administration is flat wrong. It’s wrong on the science and wrong on the substance,” the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) declared on July 5. “The Biden administration and every elected official need to leave these decisions to families, doctors, and patients — where they belong.”

In addition to their public statement, HRC said the same thing in a coalition letter to the president, co-signed by other transgender activist groups, including The National Center for Lesbian Rights, Advocates for Trans Equality, The Trevor Project, PFLAG, the Whitman-Walker Institute, and the American Civil Liberties Union. They demanded that the Biden administration “fight any ban” on gender transition procedures, including surgeries, for minors and threatened, “the entire community is watching.”

In a separate statement, PFLAG National lambasted the White House’s “wholesale” opposition to gender transition surgeries for minors. “Because the Biden administration bowed to a transparently politicized campaign to harm transgender people and families and weaken our health system, now the government stands between patients, parents, and doctors,” declared PFLAG National CEO Brian Bond.

In another July 5 letter, Zooey Zephyr and other trans-identifying state legislators excoriated the president for what they called “a shocking repudiation of his promise to have the backs of trans-identifying Americans. “By stating that some forms of healthcare for transgender people should be limited solely to adults,” they declared, “the administration is surrendering the health care of young transgender people as something to be negotiated in the political domain, rather than something that needs to be carefully considered and decided by the medical community, by the parents of transgender youth, and by the youth themselves.”

Despite everything Biden has done to advance their agenda, transgender activist organizations would not tolerate this one small act of compromise; and, considering his other political vulnerabilities, LGBT activists are one group Biden believes he cannot afford to alienate.

Thus, an unprepared White House responded to this friendly fire by beating a hasty retreat.

“We continue to fight state and national bans of gender affirming care, which represents a continuum of care, and respect the role of parents, families, and doctors — not politicians — in these decisions,” reaffirmed White House Domestic Policy Council Director Neera Tanden on Monday. “We will continue to vigorously fight categorical bans on gender affirming care in the courts, including the Supreme Court, and we will fight back hard against partisan laws being pushed by extreme Republican elected officials that target Americans just for who they are.”

Note that the White House justifies its opposition to any legal restrictions on gender transition surgeries for minors with the same argument as the transgender activists: a stated desire to insulate patients, families, and doctors from governmental interference. Setting aside the factual atrocities of this claim (consider all the patients duped and parents bullied into gender transition procedures), this argument is just as ironic and disingenuous as similar arguments in favor of abortion.

Transgender advocates, including the White House, do want the government to intervene — in favor of gender transitions for minors. They want to dictate what treatment methods and information counselors and psychiatrists give to children with gender dysphoria. They want to force health care professionals with conscientious objections to gender transition procedures to provide them anyways. They want taxpayers to fund these procedures through publicly funded health insurance plans. In fact, this whole drama began with the U.S. federal government interfering in the creation of medical documents — before any patients were involved — to thumb the scale in favor of certain patient outcomes.

Returning to the White House’s statement, the offending declaration, still with a political purpose to serve, was not entirely eliminated, but it was significantly watered down. “Gender-affirming surgeries are typically reserved for adults, and we believe they should be,” Tanden offered.

It’s unclear whether the Biden administration’s submission entirely satisfied the activist wolfpack, but they at least took a victory lap. “I’m writing to share some good news,” gloated Whitman-Walker Institute executive director Kellan Baker in a leaked email. “Thanks to the efforts of a large coalition of organizations … we heard from the White House tonight clarifying that their position on healthcare bans has not changed: the administration continues to oppose bans on care for trans youth and has affirmed that these decisions are best left to patients, providers, and families.”

Just so we’re all on the same page about what just happened, let’s summarize this entire drama. Transgender activist organizations just forced the White House to apologize for opposing a procedure they claim is usually unadvisable and rarely needed — one which they have even suggested isn’t happening.

Reconciliation with their activist bedfellows is probably not embarrassing for the Biden White House, but it should be. It demonstrates that the Biden administration’s policy decisions are not dictated by sober-minded professionals at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue but rather by whichever group of street agitators threatens to rage the loudest. In fact, this incident bears striking similarities to the way President Biden allowed pro-Hamas activists to bully and badger him into weakening his support for Israel.

The White House would like their latest statement to be interpreted as a “clarification,” and some media outlets have done so. But it was far closer to a “capitulation,” and the transgender activist groups know it. As the president’s party draws up their party platform before their convention next month, this episode gives a glimpse behind the scenes into which groups are really calling the shots on policy.

Joshua Arnold is a senior writer at The Washington Stand.