The Dallas Morning News
DALLAS — The Dallas doctor who ran the state’s most prominent medical program for transgender youth says she has seen dozens of new patients since crucial court wins this summer and fall.
Dr. Ximena Lopez has seen 72 additional patients since May, when a Dallas judge allowed her to resume treating transgender youth newly seeking care at Children’s Medical Center Dallas. In September, Lopez celebrated another victory when the Dallas appeals court ruled the state also could not step in to halt these treatments.
The mandate in that appeal was issued Dec. 5, finalizing the decision.
Brent Walker, Lopez’s lawyer, said the number of new patients interested in gender-affirming care shows his client’s treatments are needed. He criticized the state of Texas, represented by the Office of Attorney General Ken Paxton, for trying to intervene.
“The only reason the Attorney General was trying to get into this case was for the sake of his personal politics, not because of his constitutional duties and certainly not because he has concerns about these children and parents, who need the kind of care Dr. Lopez and the others provide,” Walker told The Dallas Morning News in a statement.
Representatives with Paxton’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
The rulings mean transgender adolescents in North Texas will have access to treatments like puberty blockers and hormone therapy until the case goes to trial as lawyers and politicians across the state continue to fight over the legality and efficacy of gender-affirming care.
Debates over LGBTQ rights in Texas have recently centered around medical care for transgender youth.
On the heels of the last legislative session in 2021, UT Southwestern announced it would stop accepting new patients seeking certain medical treatments through Genecis, a program for transgender youth it ran jointly with Children’s Medical Center Dallas.
All Genecis branding was removed from the internet, and the hospitals began to refer new underage patients who were seeking puberty suppressants and hormone therapy for the treatment of gender dysphoria to outside providers.
Transgender patients previously enrolled in Genecis can still access these treatments, UT Southwestern said, as can youth seeking hormones for reasons not related to gender dysphoria. The hospitals continue to provide mental health care to new child and adolescent patients experiencing gender dysphoria. UT Southwestern and Children’s do not perform gender-affirming surgeries on minors.
The hospitals cited political and media attention for the changes at Genecis.
Gender dysphoria is the feeling of discomfort or distress that can occur in people who identify as a gender that is different from the gender or sex assigned at birth. Age appropriate and individualized medical treatments for transgender youth are supported by the state and nation’s largest physicians groups, including the American and Texas Medical Associations.
Lopez, a pediatric endocrinologist who ran the program, sued Children’s over the Genecis decisions in May.
That month, Judge Melissa Bellan granted Lopez an injunction that allowed her to temporarily resume admitting new patients seeking medical treatments. Children’s agreed to the injunction, which will last at least until a trial is slated to start in April 2023. The decision was a huge win for Lopez, who immediately began to take appointments.
Objecting to the resumption in care, Paxton sought to intervene in the case on the grounds that his office believes these treatments can constitute child abuse.
In June, Bellan ruled against Paxton, who quickly appealed her decision.
On Sept. 23, the 5th Court of Appeals in Dallas agreed with Bellan that the state cannot intervene. The three-judge panel – two Democrats and one Republican – that issued the ruling did not elaborate on its reasoning.
The state of Texas is already involved in two other cases involving gender-affirming care. Earlier this year, parents with transgender children sued the state after Gov. Greg Abbott directed child protective services to investigate minors receiving gender-affirming medical treatments.
At least 11 investigations were opened. Most have been closed without finding evidence of child abuse; some are still active but on hold as the cases are litigated.
Gender-affirming care will be debated during the 2023 legislative session that kicks off in early January, as will the discussion of gender and sexuality in public schools, transgender student-athletes, and drag queen performances.
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