Two transgender minors are suing UM curators for gender discrimination

The lawsuit was filed Thursday against the UM System Board of Curators on behalf of two Boone County transgender minors whose gender-affirmation care was halted by MU Health Care in August.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, alleges that the two minors were discriminated against based on their gender and disability status by MU Health Care’s decision in August to end gender-affirming care for existing minor patients. The complaint seeks to enjoin MU Health Care from denying medical care to existing minor patients based on their transgender status. It also seeks an unspecified amount of damages for the plaintiffs.

The lawsuit alleges that MU violated the Affordable Care Act’s nondiscrimination provision. The provision extends to all health care programs that receive federal financial assistance. As a public university that receives federal funding, MU is subject to the law, according to the lawsuit.

Prosecutors argue that denying prescriptions related to gender dysphoria, while other minors continue to receive the same medications for other conditions, is illegal discrimination based on gender and disability.

TGH Litigation filed suit. The firm is based in Columbia and specializes in employment discrimination and civil rights cases. J. Andrew Hirth is one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs.

“I think when the General Assembly decided to use transgender children as a political football, a lot of people were concerned and upset about that,” Hirt said. “When a land-grant state university, a center of learning and research for the state of Missouri, decided to abandon its current patients who are expressly exempted from the statute’s restrictions, I think it felt like a real betrayal.”

The two plaintiffs, identified in the lawsuit as JC and KJ, are Boone County residents and identified as transgender boys under the age of 18. JC and KJ received gender-affirming care at MU Health Care for more than a year and were medically diagnosed with gender dysphoria, a diagnosis that the lawsuit claims is a protected disability under the provision because it “significantly limits one or more major life activities, including , but not limited to the work of the endocrine system”.

JC received regular prescriptions for hormone replacement therapy, or HRT, until MU Health Care’s policy change in August. KJ received GnRH agonist injections as a treatment for dysphoria and delayed puberty.

Both boys will have exhausted their current medication by February and, as a result, will experience development consistent with their birth sex, such as menstruation and breast development.

In addition to detailing the plaintiffs’ medical histories, the lawsuit includes more personal details about both boys’ identity journeys.

“In early December 2020, something clicked,” the lawsuit states. “For the first time, JC was able to articulate that he was a boy.”

This portion of the complaint also describes the medical considerations of both plaintiffs’ MU Health Care physicians in prescribing care. Doctors are identified only by their initials, called Dr. M. and Dr. G. The lawsuit alleges that both doctors believe the boys should have continued treatment and would have continued their medication refills had they been allowed to do so in September.

While JC and KJ will not receive the previously prescribed medications, these forms of treatment are continuously being prescribed to other minor patients, the lawsuit alleges.

For example, MU Health Care’s policy currently allows doctors to prescribe testosterone HRT “to prevent breast development in cisgender boys, but not to prevent breast development in transgender boys,” the lawsuit states. Similarly, drugs to delay puberty or stop menstruation may be prescribed to minors assigned female at birth, but not to those who identify as male.

The plaintiffs allege that this difference in treatment constitutes discrimination based on gender identity.

UM System President Moon Choi commented on the lawsuit Thursday at a news conference at a board of curators meeting in St. Louis.

“From the beginning, our position has been (that) we will follow the law of the land,” Choi said. “That approach will not change.”

When asked if MU considered the possibility of such lawsuits before its August policy change, MU spokesman Christian Bassey said MU “always takes care to comply with the law and to be in the best interest of the university.”

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