Tennessee Governor, Officials Disavow State-Created Task Force Over ‘Extreme’ Trans Activism
Credit: Tracey Quirk / EyeEm via Getty Images.

Top Tennessee officials disavowed a state-created HIV task force that was designed to help transgender individuals but has since expanded in scope to promote transgender surgeries and abortion.

In response to a Daily Wire inquiry, Governor Bill Lee (R-TN) and the Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) said that the state does not support the Tennessee Transgender Task Force (TTF), a group created in 2018 prior to the Lee administration. But the task force has repeatedly aligned itself with the state health department, even though state officials say it’s now an independent group with no members employed by the state. 

“The State of Tennessee does not support the task force, nor its promotion of gender-affirming treatment, abortion and other extreme ideologies. These ideologies are not consistent with the values of Tennesseans, and we will continue efforts to ensure they are not promoted or funded by state government,” Casey Sellers, a spokeswoman for Lee, told The Daily Wire.

Information on the task force added during the Haslam administration was still available on the TDH as recently as this month, and was only removed after The Daily Wire asked about it.

A health department spokesperson told The Daily Wire that the task force and others have been misrepresenting their involvement by using their name and logo, and that the department doesn’t oversee or provide funding for the task force. 

“The task force was formed prior to the Lee administration and remains an independent organization. To be clear, the department does not fund or promote gender-affirming treatments or ideologies,” TDH spokesperson Dean Flener said. 

Middle Tennessee State University Professor Marisa Richmond, a former member of the task force and the first transgender person to become a Nashville city board member, told The Daily Wire in an email that the task force “expanded” from focusing solely on HIV care and into a more general “access to health care for transgender Tennesseans.”

According to materials reviewed by The Daily Wire, the task force and individuals linked to the health department continued to associate itself with TDH even after Haslam left office and as recently as 2022.

For example, a November 2019 presentation given by then-TDH STD Prevention Director Leo Parker at an STD conference showed how the task force had moved to other “trans health challenges.” During his presentation, Parker discussed the “lack” of gender identity and pronouns on state medical forms, the cost of hormone replacement treatment at pharmacies, gender markers on state IDs, “sex work,” “undocumented transgender individuals,” “lack of transgender-inclusive sexual education,” and “gender-neutral language in reproductive spaces,” according to PowerPoint slides with the TDH logo on them from the event.

Resource guides put out by the task force have promoted transgender treatments, abortion, and other services not related to HIV care. A 2021 iteration of the resource guide included a list of over 30 clinics, doctors, and other entities across Tennessee that the group has apparently deemed to provide “trans-affirming” services, including “general reproductive care,” “youth services,” “letters for surgery,” “surgical care,” “fitness classes,” abortion, land letters for “gender marker change.”

The guide also lists doctors or professional organizations that provide “youth services,” including Vanderbilt Pediatric and Adolescent Transgender Health Clinic — which paused gender surgeries earlier this month in response to Daily Wire reporting — and the Oasis Center in Nashville — which runs “Just Us” programs for youth and celebrates the “fluidity of identity.”

In April 2022, Ray Holloman, who has been chair of the task force, gave a presentation on “Queer Cultural Humility,” at the Tennessee Department of Health annual statewide HIV conference. The Daily Wire has reached out to Holloman for comment asking for clarity on the relationship between the task force and the state health department.

The association between the task force and the TDH appeared to continue up until October 2022, as a recent mailer from the United Way of Greater Nashville, an HIV treatment group, with the TDH logo emblazoned on the top also encouraged people to contribute “trans-affirming” health care providers to be vetted by the task force and added to the resource guide.

The task force did not respond to a request for comment.

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The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  Tennessee Governor, Officials Disavow State-Created Task Force Over ‘Extreme’ Trans Activism