Sex & Gender /

HHS Secretary Becerra Argues Transgender Surgeries for Minors Should Be Aided by the Government

Indiana Senator Mike Braun asked Becerra to explain surgeries and prescriptions used to treat transgender youths

A top Biden administration official said the government should support minors who are seeking gender-reassignment surgeries during a budget meeting.

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra appeared before the  Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies to discuss President Joe Biden’s budget for the 2022 fiscal year.

Indiana Senator Mike Braun asked Health and Becerra to define “gender-affirming care” — a term that appears on the HHS website.

Braun said he did not think “drugs” such as hormone blockers had been proven to be safe. He noted that when hormone replacement therapy was prescribed by a doctor it is done so off-label as the Food and Drug Administration has not approved the medications for gender identity-related issues.

Becerra said that it was up to physicians to safely prescribe medication for their patients and avoided discussing puberty blockers or hormone treatments for minors who identify as transgender.

Braun then asked about what he called “grotesque” surgeries offered to those seeking to change their gender, including asking the Secretary to describe “irreversible top and bottom sex-change surgery.”

“Those decisions are made by that individual, in consultation with a physician, and caregivers, and no decision would be made without having consulted appropriately,” Becerra answered.

He did not say under what circumstances he would oppose surgical intervention for minors who express confusion about their gender.

Braun said the government was navigating into a territory it has never entered before and warned regulators should be cautious when providing information about permanent medical procedures on public websites. He called for more focus on “mental health and not things that are irreversible.”

“I think leading the HHS it might be a little more important to be a little more definitive rather than making it look like, well, a laissez-faire approach in whatever happens, happens,” Braun said. “I think that’s out of sync with most of America.”

“Senator, I hear what you are saying,” Becerra responded. “I believe we should help those have the life-affirming care that they need.”

“There are many transgender youths who have actually gone in the opposite direction, taking their life,” he continued. “If we can make a life better for someone in America, we should, especially if, in consultation with their physician, they approve of those procedures.”

Braun asked Becerra if he would consent to removing pages from the HHS website that discuss the treatment of American youth who identify as transgender “until there is a little more … science built into the approach, a little more discussion of what may or may not makes sense.”

Becerra responded: “I would say to you that many of our medical experts will tell you that we’ve explored this subject for a long time and what we find is that we are helping improve the lives of many Americans by providing them with the care that they have chosen with the informed consent of family and also with the consent and advice of their own physician.” 

In March, Becerra publicly voiced his support for federally supported medical intervention for transgender youth. Texas Governor Greg Abbott directed his state’s Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate parents who consent to have their children undergo gender transitioning treatments for child abuse.

“The Texas government’s attacks against transgender youth and those who love and care for them are discriminatory and unconscionable,” Becerra said in a March 2 statement. “These actions are clearly dangerous to the health of transgender youth in Texas. 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.”

He vowed his agency would “take immediate action if needed” and release a memorandum to all child welfare agencies directing them to support and affirm a minor’s expressed gender identity.

“The Department of Health and Human Services and all leading national medical and pediatric associations confirm that providing gender-affirming medical care is in the best interest of children and youth who need it,” stated the memorandum.

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