COLUMBUS, Ohio — Akron Children's Hospital is the latest institution to be targeted for providing health care for transgender youth.
The hospital provides gender-affirming care, such as hormone blockers and counseling services, to trans youth. But the Akron Children's had to temporarily take down the gender-affirming care section of its website after social media users started flooding the hospital with "harassment, intimidation and the intentional spread of misinformation," according to a hospital spokesperson.
The targeted attacks started when Libs of TikTok, an account with more than one million followers on Twitter, posted a News 5 story from 2019 about Akron Children's providing these services. After the Libs of TikTok account tweeted about hospitals in Boston and D.C., the FBI said both had threats of violence called in.
Chaya Raichik, the owner of the social media account, told the Washington Post her team “100 % condemns any acts/threats of violence,” but later wrote on her site that she won’t stop calling out hospitals and sharing their information. Her account has been suspended numerous times on different types of platforms but has only been permanently suspended from TikTok.
The security team at Akron Children's is aware of online threats, the hospital confirmed. It has taken down all information regarding its employees and also articles about the care they provide.
"We proudly stand behind the work of our program and providers," a spokesperson said.
The hospital said it will continue to provide this care but monitor the situation.
Read Akron Children's full statement below:
"Akron Children's Hospital turns away no child who seeks care. This is a core promise since our founding in 1890 and includes the patients in our Center for Gender Affirming Medicine. We firmly believe that young people should have access to gender-affirming care programs that are based on research and standards of care. We proudly stand behind the work of our program and providers.
"In recent days, Akron Children's program has become the focus of some online chatter that is full of misinformation about the care we provide. We condemn all forms of harassment, intimidation and the intentional spread of misinformation. We remain committed to offering a safe, inclusive and welcoming place for all patients, families and staff."
These online threats targeted the hospital and its doctors.
Rebecca Minor is a gender specialist in Massachusetts who is one of the many caregivers around the country that has been facing harassment and online attacks.
"Even taking this interview puts me at risk," Minor told News 5.
"The assumption is like, 'oh, they're mutilating children and, you know, just handing out bottom surgery,'" she said. "Little do they know young people are having to go to appointment after appointment after appointment and that there's actually so much gatekeeping in this process."
Patients are fearful, and such harassment has gotten worse in recent months, LGBTQ+ Group Canapi's Executive Director Rebecca Callahan said. This is scaring the LGBTQ+ community, Callahan said, and Libs of TikTok drawing attention to the facility, knowing this has led to issues in the past, is making people feel unsafe.
The campaign has drawn the attention of one local lawmaker.
"Imagine going on Twitter to malign, attack and harass a CHILDREN’s HOSPITAL while hiding behind an anonymous account - and being proud of it," Akron-suburbs state Rep. Casey Weinstein (D-Hudson) tweeted. "That’s what we’re up against, folks."