Trans healthcare expert slams Republican presidential candidates’ ‘fear-based’ anti-trans attacks

A graphic composed of images of Republican presidential hopefuls Tim Scott and Vivek Ramaswamy at a debate with a picture of Dr Marci Bowers performing a gender-affirming surgery for a trans person

Anti-trans rhetoric has wormed its way into the Republican Party presidential debates, with the White House hopefuls attacking gender-affirming healthcare and trans inclusion in sports.

Trans healthcare expert Dr Marci Bowers says the “reactionary [and] fear-based” attacks on the community from influential conservative politicians highlights a broader movement from forces outside the political arena that “want to eliminate trans altogether”. 

South Carolina senator Tim Scott made a quick anti-trans comment at the end of the third debate on Wednesday (8 November), saying: “If God made you a man, you play sports against men.”

He also urged the US to “reject the left’s valueless” society and instead turn to “faith [and] patriotism”.

One of his opponents, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, took the opportunity to attack “wokeism” while speaking about antisemitism in the US. He also characterised being trans as a “mental-health disorder”

Earlier on the campaign trail, former vice-president Mike Pence, who has since dropped out of the race, pledged his support for a national ban on gender-affirming healthcare for minors.

You may like to watch

Republican presidential candidates stand at podiums ahead of the third debate, some have used anti-trans talking points at debates to bolster their support
Republican presidential hopefuls (L-R): Chris Christie, Nikki Haley, Ron DeSantis, Vivek Ramaswamy and Tim Scott. (Getty)

Bowers, the president of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, has been at the forefront of the fight for transgender rights and access to affirming healthcare for decades. 

She has devoted much of her surgical career to serving the community, performing more than 2,000 vaginoplasties – a procedure to create a vagina and vulva – for transgender women, and is among the few surgical providers to have undergone the treatment herself. 

When it comes to the Republican presidential debates, Bowers tells PinkNews she always tries to “be empathetic” towards Americans who don’t understand trans identities. She believes this lack of understanding emboldens those who “want to eliminate trans altogether”.

“There’s certainly that type, but I try to appeal to the side that just needs information, and it’s a large body of people,” she says. “I try to get all the hyperbole, all the name-calling and all the fear-mongering out of the way. 

“We know suicidality is higher when you can’t access healthcare. We know it’s higher when you don’t have family support. We know it’s higher when you’re denied treatment

“I don’t want to overstate that. Suicidality is not a good end point to be looking at. 

“What we need to be looking at is that gender diversity is real, and it fits with every other measure of biology. 

“There are always exceptions to any gender rules. So, this idea that we have an inextricably bound connection between birth genitalia and gender identity, that notion is false.”

Trans healthcare expert Dr Marci Bowers smiles as she poses in a white outfit with a white surgical jacket on outside
Dr Marci Bowers says the anti-trans “flag” waved by influential Republican politicians “has been picked up by the ultra conservative, religious groups” that “just want to eliminate” the community. (Dr Marci Bowers)

She adds that the anti-trans “flag has been picked up by some ultra-conservative, religious groups” that “just want to eliminate it”. It’s also a “drift towards reversing all of social gains” for the LGBTQ+ community and other marginalised groups in the US. 

“It’s all part of it, it’s all eliminating diversity,” she claims.

The Republican presidential candidates’ rhetoric during the debates indicates how focused they are on trans rights

Republican lawmakers have flooded statehouses with hundreds of anti-LGBTQ+ bills in 2023. A large proportion directly target the trans community and gender-affirming healthcare for gender-diverse youth.  

Many legislators have cited their conservative religious beliefs while promoting these bills, and reports have linked the increase in proposed legislation to lobbying on behalf of hard-line right-wing and religious groups.  

Bowers describes the attacks on gender-affirming healthcare for trans youth from right-wing politicians as “reactionary”. It’s “very much fear-based”, she adds. 

“We all need to realise that these are the same forces that are trying to eliminate all factions. They’re trying to get homogeneity in a society that is inherently and increasingly diverse

“It’s not going to work but we all need to recognise that, and we all need to stand up and tell our stories.”

A person holds up a sign reading 'Protect our siblings' with the colours of the trans flag on the sign as they protest anti-trans policies championed by conservative groups and lawmakers, including the 2024 Republican presidential candidates during the debates
Top medical associations and experts support healthcare for transgender people despite political opposition. (Getty)

The “crucial upshot” is that several major medical associations and leading health authorities support affirming healthcare for transgender people and youth, she points out.  

“There’s a lot of emerging evidence that gender-affirming healthcare is efficacious. There is no doubt that gender-affirming care provides benefits for trans adults, for youth and for those who access that care. That’s the bottom line. Full stop. 

“These are the smartest people that we have. These aren’t people recruiting new members. This isn’t a medically created phenomenon. This is patient-driven.”