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Muckraker: Johns Hopkins accused of denying gender-affirming surgery to trans-woman because she was ‘being aggressive’

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The Johns Hopkins Center for Transgender and Gender Expansive Health is being accused of discriminating against a black-trans woman who says she was denied a requested gender-affirming surgery from the Center, according to a recent report from The Baltimore Banner.

The Transgender Center, whose Medical Director is Dr. Fan Liang, a craniofacial surgeon, allegedly canceled a scheduled facial feminization procedure for Londyn Smith de Richelieu, Baltimore City’s director of LGBTQ Affairs, just days before it was set to take place, because Smith de Richelieu was “being aggressive” with Liang’s staff and “used profanity” towards them.

Smith de Richelieu told The Baltimore Banner it was a “complete lie” that she behaved aggressively towards Liang’s staff or directed profanity at them. “I don’t even curse,” she explained. She said she was “triggered” by the “false” and “stereotypic characterizations” of her behavior while interacting with the Center’s staff.

Previously the recipient of two vocal surgeries to make her voice sound more feminine, Smith de Richelieu said she fell to the floor in tears when she learned her facial feminization surgery had been canceled. “I really wanted my surgery.”

She said her complaint against Liang is about more than just her. “Gender affirming care is life saving,” she explained. “Calling a black woman aggressive when she is advocating for herself is not OK.”

She said she wants Liang to apologize, and for the entire staff at the Transgender Center to participate in cultural competency training so that “Other black trans women do not have to go through this.”

Learning of Smith de Richelieu’s allegations regarding Liang, Phillip Westry, executive director of FreeState Justice, a Maryland LGBTQ legal advocacy group, said “FreeState Justice will be looking into the matter to assure that trans Marylanders are not being denied access to gender-affirming care.”

Westry explained that, because the Maryland General Assembly passed the Trans Health Equity Act during the last legislative session, which expands the gender-affirming procedures covered by Medicaid in Maryland, more individuals will be seeking out this form of care. 

Smith de Richelieu agreed, and continued to express concerns about Liang. “We’re about to be filling the coffers of Hopkins,” she said. I’m scared that she [Liang] will not be able to deal with the community.” 

Reporting the story for The Baltimore Banner was John-John Williams, a diversity, equity, and inclusion journalist for the non-profit newspaper. Williams, a graduate of Howard University in Washington DC, had previously been with The Baltimore Sun, where he led the newspaper now owned by a hedge fund’s diversity committee.

Reacting to Williams’s story in The Banner, Liang told The Washington Blade, an LGBTQ news source, “It was an upsetting article to read” because it presents “just one person’s account of things.” She said she was “upset that there wasn’t more due diligence done to investigate a little bit further.”

Liang, educated at Princeton and Harvard, was named the Transgender Center’s medical director in 2022. With a staff of 50, the Center has treated 2,800 patients and performed more than 600 gender-affirming surgeries since reopening in 2017, according to a 2022 press release published by Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Gender-affirmation at Hopkins had been on a nearly 40 year hiatus prior to that. The institution was a leader in gender identity science in the 1960s, performing sex-change operations from 1966 until 1979, at which point the practice was stopped after then chief of psychiatry Paul McHugh determined “Hopkins was fundamentally cooperating with mental illness” by performing the procedures.

Before transitioning from a man to a woman, Smith de Richelieu’s name was Juan Smith. It was at Morehouse College, a historically black all-male college in Atlanta, where he began identifying as a woman and started hormone therapy.

Returning to Baltimore as a trans-woman, she was featured on an episode of the reality TV show “Love Thy Sister”, the climax of which comes when she accompanies a biologically female friend to a sex-toy party but was made to feel unwelcome, only for the friend to stand up for her after previously being skeptical about her transition, all per an article from The Baltimore Sun.  

She ascended to her present post with the Baltimore City Mayor’s Office, and was named a Woman to Watch in a Baltimore Sun feature shortly after. She has been cited in news reports from CBS Baltimore, ABC WMAR, NPR WYPR, The Washington Blade, as well as the previously mentioned Banner and Sun.

The Baltimore Banner was founded by Stewart Bainum Jr., once a Democrat State Senator in Maryland turned hotel magnate, who has donated sums totaling in the millions to the presidential campaigns of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Joe Biden.

Tags: Baltimore Banner, Baltimore Sun, Johns Hopkins

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