A Republican donor took part in a massive pressure campaign to force a Texas hospital to turn away transgender patients.
Image by Nightryder84 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=80516832
A recently leaked batch of emails has revealed how a Republican megadonor used veiled threats to pressure Children’s Medical Center Dallas to abandon its GENder Education and Care, Interdisciplinary Support (GENECIS) program for transgender youth. Monty Bennett, a billionaire hotel magnate and prominent GOP supporter, sent a series of emails that deployed misinformation and right-wing talking points to suggest legal action against the program. He claimed that the program was engaging in “genital mutilation” of children, despite the fact that it followed best practices for medical care of transgender children. Bennett’s emails were among over 10,000 records disclosed by the American College of Pediatricians (ACPEDs), a designated hate group, in a major data breach. The documents reveal how right-wing politicians, extreme groups, and their affluent donors work together to attack gender-affirming care.
The leaked emails show that Bennett’s tactics aimed to instill fear, anxiety, and distrust in Children’s Medical Center administrators. Bennett’s techniques mirrored “sealioning,” which involves bombarding individuals with requests for information, and he sought to portray himself as interested in learning more about gender-affirming care. However, his follow-up email expressed much stronger views and contained a point-by-point analysis of research papers that he claimed proved that “treating transgender youth early and aggressively is based far more on activist researchers’ will than on the ethical treatment of minors or the conclusions of the scientific studies you sent us.” Bennett’s email also included a series of right-wing falsehoods about transgender healthcare that aimed to portray the clinic as a “sterilization program.” He threatened legal action against the clinic and urged it to return all the money his company had donated.
Bennett’s letters to Children’s Medical coincided with a second wave of anti-trans legislation proposed by Republicans around the country. According to the American Civil Liberties Union’s legislation map, state lawmakers submitted 66 proposals in 2020, a 15% increase over the previous high in 2016. By 2023, they had introduced over 520 anti-trans measures across the US. Texas leads the country in terms of anti-trans legislation, with Republican members proposing 57 measures in 2023.
ANTI-ABORTION AND ANTI-TRANS HATEGROUP
The leaked documents also reveal how ACPEDs, which has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, has functioned as a hub for anti-trans and anti-abortion policy. Michelle Cretella, the executive director of ACPEDs, forwarded Bennett’s emails to her assistant and asked that the discussion be preserved in her personal Google Drive folder labeled “HOW TO DEFUND TRANS PEDIATRICS.” Cretella’s folder, along with many of her other private papers, was placed under a folder called “Staff Duties — Medical/Clinical Committee” in the ACPEDs document dump. The emails show how right-wing politicians, extreme groups, and their affluent donors collaborate, swap language, and coordinate their tactics in their nationwide fight against gender-affirming care.
The leaked documents have sparked outrage among trans advocates and healthcare providers, who argue that the pressure campaign against Children’s Medical was part of a broader effort to limit access to healthcare for trans individuals. They say that attacks on trans healthcare are based on fear, bigotry, and misinformation and ignore the medical consensus that gender-affirming care is safe and effective. They note that the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, the American Psychological Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics have all endorsed gender-affirming care for transgender youth. They say that the leaked emails underscore the need for increased awareness and education around trans issues and for strong legal protections for trans individuals against discrimination and violence.