At a recent 2024 presidential town hall event hosted by NewsNation, Melissa McCollister, a social work professor at Grand View University in Iowa, couldn't hold back her emotions while confronting former Vice President Mike Pence about attacks on gender-affirming care for transgender youth.
McCollister, who described herself as “an LBGTQ member" who also has transgender family members, was quite emotional when she asked her question of Pence:
“What is your policy plan to protect the transgender community, specifically Black and brown trans women, from historically high levels of violence?”
McCollister tearfully conceded that "it is very hard to ask these questions after just hearing what I heard."
In the previous segment during the town hall, Pence had pledged the following:
"I will seek measures if need be nationally, to ban chemical or surgical transition procedures on anyone under the age of 18."
That led to the emotionalexchange in the video below.
Pence dodges emotional question on violence against trans community | Mike Pence Town Hallyoutu.be
After McCollister spoke of the violence perpetrated against the trans community, Pence told McCollister he was “deeply grieved to hear about those tragic circumstances" but urged her to listen to his “heart” on the topic.
“For me, what adults do in their lives, decisions that they make, including transgender adults, is one thing. But for kids under the age of 18 ― I mean, there’s a reason why we don’t let you drive ’til you’re 16."
“That’s because we understand that kids don’t fully understand the consequences of their actions."
"When it comes to surgical or chemical procedures, I really believe that we’ve got to protect our kids from decisions that will affect them the balance of their lives.”
In response to Pence's remarks, McCollister highlighted her experience working with LGBTQ+ youth, some "as young as 5 years old," and raising a transgender child:
“I have worked with kids as young as 5 years old that have gender-nonconforming and identities that are transgender. And I’ve raised one."
“And so to hear somebody tell me that it’s not OK for young children to make decisions about their gender identity and to ask their school officials for support, protection and help, is appalling.”
Pence countered with transphobic rhetoric suggesting doctors are allowing children to have medically invasive surgeries with no oversight, saying we must not promote the “wrong” idea of “telling young, impressionable kids that little boys, that they can become girls or little girls, that they can become boys.”
“I’d like to put my arm around any one of those young people and just say, ‘We love you, but wait. Wait until you reach an age of majority. Wait until you have a better idea of who you are. And then live the life that you want to live in this free country.”
Pence was criticized for his remarks.
According to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), over 35 percent of transgender youth live in states that have passed bans on gender-affirming care.
A recent study showed that transgender adults with access to puberty blockers as teens were less likely to have suicidal thoughts.
The study, published in Pediatrics, concluded that "those who received treatment with pubertal suppression, when compared with those who wanted pubertal suppression but did not receive it, had lower odds of lifetime suicidal ideation.