Children’s National Hospital: Libs of TiKTok recording on trans hysterectomies triggers threats – The Washington Post
Children’s National Hospital has been inundated with threatening emails and phone calls after an influential right-wing Twitter account published a recording that falsely suggested the hospital is performing hysterectomies on transgender children, a hospital spokeswoman said. The torrent of harassment was accompanied by social media posts suggesting that Children’s be bombed and its doctors placed in a woodchipper.
The recording, made by Libs of TikTok founder Chaya Raichik, features two telephone operators at the renowned D.C. medical facility stating — in response to Raichik’s questions — that a 16-year-old trans boy would be eligible for a hysterectomy at the hospital’s gender development clinic. Children’s has not disputed the authenticity of the recording but said the employees provided inaccurate information.
“None of the people who were secretly recorded by this activist group deliver care to our patients,” hospital spokeswoman Ariana Ahmadi Perez said. “We do not and have never performed gender-affirming hysterectomies for anyone under the age of 18.”
Such statements have not dispelled the furor Raichik’s Thursday post unleashed. Right-wing media outlets, including Fox News and the Daily Caller, ran stories based on the erroneous information provided in the telephone conversations. A subtitled video of the recording had been viewed more than 800,000 times on Twitter by Friday evening.
In response to a request for comment for this story, Raichik agreed to an interview, with the condition that she be allowed to record it. This story will be updated to include her comments once that interview takes place.
The scrutiny of Children’s comes just weeks after Libs of TikTok similarly targeted Boston Children’s Hospital over its care for transgender people. In that instance, the account highlighted a video produced by the hospital discussing “gender-affirming hysterectomies.”
Libs of TikTok claimed the surgery was being performed on “young girls,” although Boston Children’s officials said the procedure is not available to those under 18. Despite its name, the Boston hospital, like Children’s National in D.C., treats patients into young adulthood. Officials at Boston Children’s likewise said their providers were targeted with threats and harassment after Libs of TikTok brought attention to their programs.
The uproar over transgender care at children’s hospitals comes as lawmakers in many states are seeking to curb LGBTQ rights in classrooms and on athletic fields. From Florida to Kentucky, conservatives are seeking to limit the discussion of gender in schools and bar participation by trans athletes in youth sports, with many on the right baselessly claiming that gay and trans educators are seeking to “groom” and sexually abuse children. In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott told the state Department of Family Protective and Services to investigate parents who provide gender-affirming care to their transgender children. That order is being challenged in the courts.
Hysterectomy — the removal of the uterus, cervix and fallopian tubes, sometimes accompanied by removal of the ovaries — can be performed in addition to mastectomy (often referred to as top surgery by transgender doctors and advocacy groups) for people transitioning. But the procedure is almost never offered to children, experts said, and the current standards of care published by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health state that the surgery should not be performed on minors.
Dr. Loren Schechter, director of gender affirmation surgery at Rush University in Chicago and a member of the association’s executive committee, said he could recall only one gender-affirming hysterectomy on a minor in 23 years of practice. In that case, he said, the patient was a 17-year-old who had already been in treatment for years and had been repeatedly counseled by doctors to delay the surgery.
“These are considered decisions, and they’re complex decisions,” Schechter said. “The thought that people are getting pushed or rushed into surgical intervention is just ludicrous.”
Yet Children’s National officials admit that some information put out by the hospital has increased public confusion. Before Thursday, the hospital’s website erroneously stated that gender-affirming hysterectomy was available to patients “between the ages of 0-21,” an error that has been corrected, Perez said.
And in Raichik’s recording, two hospital employees answering the phones state unambiguously that a minor patient could receive a gender-affirming hysterectomy.
“It depends. Each department’s different. Some departments cut off at 18,” one telephone operator says in response to Raichik’s question about whether a minor would be eligible for the surgery. “How old is your patient?”
“Okay,” the operator replies. “Alright. So they’re in the clear.”
After confirming with a second person over the phone that a 16-year-old would be eligible for a gender-affirming hysterectomy, Raichik asks whether it is “a common procedure that you guys do for that age.”
“Yes, we have all different type of age groups that comes in for that,” the hospital worker responds.
“For the hysterectomy?” Raichik asks.
“Yes, ma’am,” the employee says, adding later that she has “seen younger kids, younger than your child’s age” undergo the surgery.
On Thursday night, the hospital’s website temporarily went down. Officials said they are investigating what went wrong and that it was not yet clear whether the outage was related to the gender-care furor .
Raichik — a former real estate salesperson who has operated under various online pseudonyms — has amassed 1.3 million followers with posts that avidly stoke the nation’s culture wars, with a particular focus on LGBTQ issues. Her previous targets have included schools and Pride events, said Ari Drennen, LGBTQ program director for Media Matters of America.
The new focus on children’s hospitals is particularly worrisome, Drennen said, bringing the potential for violence and harassment directed at families seeking medical care.
“I think most people should be able to agree that health-care decisions are not best made by angry internet mobs,” Drennen said.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly indicated that Raichik had not responded to a request for comment. The Post was not aware she’d responded through Twitter message before the story was published.
Taylor Lorenz contributed to this report.