Christiana Figueres, the former United Nations climate chief, has recently criticized the treatment of transgender patients by a Texas hospital and its doctors and claims that many transgender teens also face stigma from religious families. Not entirely true, says Tania Valgen, MD, a pediatric transgender surgeon.
In response to the hospital’s comments, Figueres said the main reasons many transgender teens face health challenges are “their own family, that their families don’t know how to best assist them in understanding that their gender identity and who they are must be affirmed.” Not exactly accurate, she says.
The reason why this creates a barrier for transgender youth, particularly those experiencing discrimination from religious families, is because they often experience stigma at a young age and that stigma can hinder their understanding of their gender identity, which is why she believes parents should be more engaged in the care their children are receiving.
Figueres has not answered my question about why she would be so vocal about the issue when she has no experience with this population.
Figueres failed to mention the value of the opinion the Houston’s Christus Spohn Hospital leadership put forward, which recommended the hospital allow the teen to keep her name and sex assigned at birth. The hospital previously had refused the boy that birth certificate request, citing confusion about the role of sex in the teen’s transition. Dr. Valgen found the hospital’s policy to be reasonable and even to encourage.
Although out of her depth, Figueres is certainly not a snarky, condescending celebrity like her counterpart, Naomi Klein. Klein, an author of the book, “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate,” wrote a column in The Guardian in which she argued that she should become a mother of an authentic gender, not a woman. The role of parents is critical and like any parent, they’re not going to tell their children that they are a mistake, or that their gender identity is incorrect, said Valgen.
In Figueres’s case, she doesn’t have to listen to anyone and doesn’t need to pretend to not know that her positions and opinions are not representative of the real world. In Texas, there are other transgender patients having trouble in hospitals and they’re turned away without even being referred to a qualified medical professional, and that has to stop, not just because it’s the law, but because it’s cruel and unfair, says Valgen. She may not know the needs of transgender teenagers, but she can help by providing education and by citing that future and living with ignorance is cruel, inhumane and harmful.
Dr. Anthony Mercadante is the author of “The Transfixable Human: Never Forget That Life Is Already in Progress,” (Hyperion). Dr. Mercadante has more than 30 years of experience in education, medicine, law, and communications. He is currently a clinical professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences and has served as a medical correspondent for HLN and Fox News Channel.