NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Tennessee House Republican lawmakers say if the Vanderbilt University Medical Center doesn’t stop performing gender-affirming surgeries, “all options are on the table” this upcoming legislative session.
On Tuesday, Rep. Jason Zachary (R-Knoxville) and more than 60 of his colleagues signed onto a letter, calling on VUMC to take “immediate action by halting all permanent gender transitioning surgeries being performed on minor children.”
This demand comes after a conservative commentator put out tweets and a video concerning Vanderbilt Medical Center’s Pediatric Transgender Clinic. The commentator alleges the hospital is performing gender-affirming surgeries on minors for profit and forcing doctors to perform these surgeries even if they have moral objections to the procedure.
“While a Twitter and a threat does not prompt the legislature to act when you actually have a video of employees working directly for an institution like Vanderbilt that does get your attention,” Zachary said.
The representative said transgender adults can do as they please and that this letter only addresses surgeries, but that minors are not able to consent to these procedures.
“Without question, I see gender transition surgery as abusive to minor children,” he said.
In a statement, Vanderbilt has said it follows state law and that the commentator mispresented what their clinic does. Zachary said he has respect for the life-saving work that the hospital does in general but wants to see the end to “surgical mutilations of minor children,” as the letter alleges.
“This is a fairly new phenomenon. I’ve been in the legislature four terms. This didn’t really exist when I came in seven years ago. And now we find ourselves in the last four to five this dramatic shift where if there is some sort of expression of gender dysmorphia or confusion the step is to take surgical steps and perform procedures on a minor,” Rep. Zachary said.
However, Will French, chair of the Tennessee chapter of the LGBT education organization, GLSEN, says this is an inaccurate portrayal of gender-affirming surgery.
“This may be a new topic for Republican lawmakers but this is not a new topic for trans youth and their families who are consulting with their doctors, with their medical teams, and oftentimes therapists to figure out the right support is for their family, their child, or their youth,” French said.
Other transgender activists say the criticism of the Transgender Clinic from GOP lawmakers comes after they took steps in recent years to pass laws to restrict gender-affirming surgeries.
Last year, Governor Bill Lee signed into law a bill banning hormone treatment for prepubescent transgender children, children eight and below according to the bill’s text; however, a bill that would have made gender-affirming surgeries for the same age group illegal never came to a final vote.
Both of these bills would be less restrictive than some of the potential legislation Tennessee lawmakers are posting about on social media.
However, Zachary stresses he is taking no action until he either receives a response from Vanderbilt or 10 days pass. He also said he has met with representatives from the hospital but wouldn’t provide further details.
A spokesperson for Vanderbilt said they have no additional comment to make at this time.