On March 2, on the heels of a discriminatory gubernatorial order in Texas, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra released the following statement reaffirming HHS’s commitment to supporting and protecting transgender youth and their parents, caretakers and families. Secretary Becerra also announced several immediate actions HHS is taking actions to support LGBTQI+ youth and further remind Texas and others of the federal protections that exist to ensure transgender youth receive the care they need:
“The Texas government’s attacks against transgender youth and those who love and care for them are discriminatory and unconscionable. 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.
“HHS is committed to protecting young Americans who are targeted because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and supporting their parents, caretakers and families. That is why I directed my team to evaluate the tools at our disposal to protect trans and gender diverse youth in Texas, and today I am announcing several steps we can take to protect them.
“HHS will take immediate action if needed. I know that many youth and their supportive families are feeling scared and isolated because of these attacks. HHS is closely monitoring the situation in Texas, and will use every tool at our disposal to keep Texans safe.
“Any individual or family in Texas who is being targeted by a child welfare investigation because of this discriminatory gubernatorial order is encouraged to contact our Office for Civil Rights to report their experience.”
New HHS Actions Announced by Secretary Xavier Becerra:
- HHS is releasing guidance to state child welfare agencies through an Information Memorandum that makes clear that states should use their child welfare systems to advance safety and support for LGBTQI+ youth, which importantly can include access to gender affirming care;
- HHS is also releasing guidance* on patient privacy, clarifying that, despite the Texas government’s threat, health care providers are not required to disclose private patient information related to gender affirming care;
- HHS also issued guidance* making clear that denials of health care based on gender identity are illegal, as is restricting doctors and health care providers from providing care because of a patient’s gender identity;
- The Secretary also called on all of HHS to explore all options to protect kids, their parents, caretakers and families; and
- HHS will also ensure that families and health care providers in Texas are aware of all the resources available to them if they face discrimination as a result of this discriminatory gubernatorial order.
If you believe that you or another party has been discriminated against on the basis of gender identity or disability in seeking to access gender affirming health care, visit the OCR complaint portal to file a complaint online.
If you have questions regarding patient privacy laws, please reach out to the Office for Civil Rights email: [email protected] or call Toll-free: (800) 368-1019
Resources for kids, parents, caretakers and families:
- SAMHSA supports the Center of Excellence on LGBTQ+ Behavioral Health Equity , which provides behavioral health practitioners with vital information on supporting the population of people identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, two-spirit, and other diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions. The Center’s website includes a recorded webinar on Gender Identity, Expression & Behavioral Health 101. Upcoming webinars will include topics such as: How to Signal to Youth that You are an LGBTQ+ Affirming Provider; How to Respond When a Young Person Discloses their SOGIE; Supporting Families of LGBTQ+ Youth; and Safety Planning for LGBTQ+ Students.
- A Practitioner’s Resource Guide: Helping Families to Support Their LGBT Children is a resource guide developed by SAMHSA that offers information and resources to help practitioners throughout health and social service systems implement best practices in engaging and helping families and caregivers to support their lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) children.