UNLV police investigating fraudulent anti-trans letter sent to primary care clinic
UNLV officials have launched an investigation after a local primary care clinic recently notified school officials it had received a letter from someone impersonating UNLV President Keith Whitfield telling the clinic that it would pursue legal action if it continued providing gender-affirming care.
The letter, which officials confirmed was fraudulent, is being investigated by the university’s police services. University police declined to share the contents of the letter or say whether it was an isolated incident because an investigation is ongoing.
Dr. Sal Biazzo, a doctor of osteopathic medicine and the senior staff physician as well as chief medical officer at UNLV’s student health center, said the letter appears to be a “scare tactic” aimed at preventing the medical and mental health community from engaging in gender-affirming care.
He worries that the letter, sent to a university health care partner, could lead providers to second-guess their work and potentially reduce access to care for transgender and gender-diverse people who have difficulty finding care and are more prone to illness because of the stressors involved in getting high-quality care.
“This is something that works against all of us, and the oath we took to take care of anybody,” Biazzo said. “Everyone should get quality care.”
Several studies have found that gender-affirming care leads to lower risk of depression and suicidality in transgender adults and even more so among transgender youth. Other studies also confirm that LGBTQ+ youth and adults are far more likely to experience depression, suicidality and other adverse mental health outcomes than cisgender youth and adults. Cisgender refers to people whose gender identity corresponds with the sex registered to them at birth.
Nevada is widely considered an LGBTQ+-friendly state, and Biazzo said that the state laws ensure providers can offer quality health care across the spectrum. In 2019, Biazzo started a Gender Care Team at UNLV to help provide health care services to transgender and gender non-conforming students.
Still, he fears that rhetoric within the letter and other anti-LGBTQ+ messaging could give the wrong impression.
“Virtually all the medical societies are in agreement that gender-affirming care is something that is a necessary part of health care,” Biazzo said. “Letters like the one we just discussed are concerning because they interfere with delivering quality health care to a population that has been historically underserved and is already hesitant to engage with the medical and mental health fields.”
The letter is just one example of attacks on transgender rights in what some refer to as a “culture war,” in which some politicians and individuals are seeking to restrict access to gender-affirming care and other services for LGBTQ+ communities.
Biazzo said that access to this type of care is essential — especially for reducing suicide rates and addressing mental health struggles.
“The last thing we need is for people to try to prevent that access to health care,” Biazzo said.