The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh has received online threats for providing gender-affirming care treatment options to transgender youth.
The hospital, part of the larger UPMC network, has recently made headlines in far-right circles for providing children with transition-related treatments such as puberty blockers, after a video of a doctor explaining treatment options went viral, resulting in a deluge of threats and attacks by people outraged over the prospect of children identifying as transgender.
The controversy began on August 12, when Christopher Rufo, a self-described “activist challenging critical race theory,” reposted a video of UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh medicine specialist Dr. Cherie Priya Dhar explaining the gender-affirming care options at the hospital. Rufo captioned the 32-second video by explaining what he thought the hospital was promoting.
“The Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh has been promoting ‘puberty blockers’ for children who say ‘I’m not really sure if I feel comfortable in my body or what gender I truly identify with,’ the tweet read. The video and caption have been viewed by over 900,000 and retweeted by over 400 accounts.
After the tweet went viral, and threats began to mount, a UPMC spokesperson sent an email explaining the safety steps the hospital is taking to protect its patients, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
“After an increase in the number of social media threats and other events impacting hospitals and physicians around the country where some specialty services are available, UPMC locations are operating with enhanced security measures to ensure the safety of our patients, visitors and staff. All hospital services are operating normally,” the email read.
When the Post-Gazette asked for an interview, the hospital declined, but sent another emailed statement standing by the care they provide.
“UPMC provides gender-affirming care, and the medical evidence shows that access to this care correlates with better physical and mental health as children age,” the statement said.
A similar controversy erupted last year regarding UPMC’s adolescent medicine department after Matt Walsh, a Daily Wire columnist and conservative pundit, posted a video of Pennsylvania State Rep. Dan Frankel (D-Pittsburgh) interviewing Dr. Gerald Montano, a UPMC adolescent medicine physician, about transgender care.
In the video, Dr. Montano explains that transgender care varies by age. He says that at age 5, medical intervention for a child exploring their gender would not occur because it is not necessary. A 10-year-old child may be eligible for puberty blockers under the supervision of their primary care provider, family and therapist.
Montano also notes that the vast majority of surgeries — with the exception of mastectomies for transgender males, referred to as “top surgery,” which are offered in very limited circumstances, based on individual assessments and done with parental permission — are not done until patients reach adulthood.
Walsh replied to the tweet containing the video, declaring that “it is an objective fact that @ChildrensPgh chemically castrates children,” sparking anger among many of his followers and other online users who saw the tweets.
In January 2022, Walsh’s account was briefly suspended for violating Twitter’s “hateful conduct” policy.
Last month, Boston Children’s Hospital received violent threats similar to those lobbed against UPMC Children’s Hospital, due to its own program providing various treatment options, including puberty blockers and hormones, to treat gender dysphoria in transgender youth. Employees reportedly received online threats and menacing phone calls attacking them for the hospital’s gender-affirming care policies.
The U.S. Department of Justice released a statement condemning the threats, with U.S. Attorney Rachel Rollins vowing to take action against those making them. Rollins explained that she had “made confronting hate crimes a priority of my administration” and said, “I will not sit idly by and allow hate-based criminal activity to continue in our District.”
Transgender activist Erin Reed took to Twitter to lament the attacks on both hospitals and the threats they had received, criticizing Twitter for allowing anti-trans “hate speech” to continue.
“Service is being interrupted and workers are being threatened. Twitter must stop this,” Reed tweeted.