Two transgender boys on Thursday filed a federal lawsuit seeking to reverse the University of Missouri’s decision to stop providing gender-affirming care to existing patients.
The lawsuit against the University of Missouri’s board of curators, which oversees the university’s main campus in Columbia and three other universities, alleges that the decision violated federal law on the basis of sex and disability status.
The legal challenge, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, comes after University of Missouri Health Care announced in August that it would no longer provide hormones and puberty blockers for minors seeking gender transitions.
That decision followed a new law signed by Republican Gov. Mike Parson tk when that bans gender-affirming care, including hormone therapy and puberty blockers, for people under 18. While the law allowed minors to continue treatments if they were already prescribed them, some providers stopped providing the treatment altogether due to fear of legal consequences.
“Untreated gender dysphoria often intensifies with time,” J. Andrew Hirth, an attorney for the two transgender boys, said in the lawsuit. “The longer an individual goes without adequate treatment, the greater the risk of debilitating anxiety, severe depression, self-harm, and suicide.”
Christian Basi, a spokesperson for the University of Missouri System, said the university was reviewing the lawsuit and declined comment.
The lawsuit contends that gender dysphoria, the disconnect between one’s gender identity and the sex they were assigned at birth, is a disability, causing “physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, including the operation of the endocrine system.”
Both plaintiffs, who live in Boone County, where the University of Missouri-Columbia is located, were diagnosed with gender dysphoria, the lawsuit said.
Hirth argues that both boys, who are identified by their initials in the suit, will face “irreparable harm” due to the university’s decision. The suit describes their gender transitions.
J.C., described as a teenager, began receiving testosterone treatments in 2022 based on the advice of a doctor at MU Health. After the university’s decision to halt treatment, J.C. has not been able to find another doctor willing to refill the prescriptions.
He is expected to run out of his current supply of treatments by February, the lawsuit said.
“After a year of watching his body start to reflect his male gender identity, the
sudden reversion to feminine characteristics will be deeply traumatic to J.C.,” the lawsuit said.
K.J., the other plaintiff in the lawsuit, is younger than J.C. and identified as transgender before reaching puberty. The lawsuit states that K.J. began taking puberty blockers after visiting with a doctor at MU Health in 2022.
He has also struggled to find other medical providers to refill his prescriptions and is expected to run out of his puberty-delaying medication by February.
“After the promise of going through puberty as a boy, his sudden development of female characteristics will cause K.J. severe emotional and physical distress,” it said.
Hirth’s lawsuit seeks preliminary and permanent injunctions that bar the university from refusing to provide gender-affirming care to existing patients based on their transgender status. He alleges that while the university stopped providing gender-affirming care to transgender minors, it still provides those medications to minors who are not transgender.
It argues that the university violated the Affordable Care Act, enacted in 2010, stating that the university is subject to the law because it receives federal financial assistance.