Metro Weekly

Georgia Transgender Clinic Fire May Be A Hate Crime

Police in Decatur, Georgia, are investigating a fire at a clinic that provides gender-affirming care as a possible hate crime.

The Blair Building in Decatur, Georgia, which is home to gender-affirming organization QMed. – Photo: Google Street View

A fire at a Georgia clinic offering gender-affirming care to transgender individuals is being investigated as a potential hate crime.

Records from the Decatur Fire Department indicate that investigators believe last October’s blaze was intentionally set, reports local news source Decaturish. The city has denied media requests for police body camera footage, citing an ongoing investigation, but the fire department released an official statement.

“On the morning of October 30, 2023, the City of Decatur Fire Rescue Department responded to a structure fire at a commercial office building located at 215 Church Street in downtown Decatur. This historic building is commonly known as the Blair Building,” the statement reads. “Fire crews extinguished the fire upon arrival. The fire was contained to one office and no injuries were reported.

“After a full investigation, the fire incident has been determined to be incendiary in nature, indicating that the fire was intentionally set. However, the identity of the individual or parties responsible is unknown. The city is collaborating with federal and state agencies to investigate this incident. The City will continue to work closely with these agencies to investigate and solve this crime.”

The Blair Building, a pink-painted structure at 215 Church Street, is home to several medical providers, including QMed/QueerMed, which provides gender-affirming care to transgender and nonbinary individuals.

According to independent news station WANF, a Decatur Police Department report indicates that QMed was the intended target of the fire. It is being investigated as a first-degree arson, a felony. Several images from that police report have been redacted. 

Dr. Izzy Lowell, the owner of QMed, told WANF that the FBI is investigating the incident, which left the office “completely destroyed,” as a possible hate crime.

Since Georgia’s hate crimes law extends protections to LGBTQ individuals, the perpetrators who set the fire, if prosecuted and found guilty, could face stronger penalties, such as additional jail time.

No arrests have been reported at this time.

“We won’t be intimidated,” Lowell said in response to speculation that the arson could force QMed to permanently shutter. “We will not stop providing life-saving care to our patients.”

The recent debates in various states over whether gender-affirming care should be provided to minors have inflamed some conservatives, who accuse practitioners of denying science and pressuring people suffering from gender dysphoria to pursue transition-related treatments.

Opponents of gender-affirming care frequently refer to such treatments as “mutilation,” arguing that pursuing a gender transition robs those individuals of their ability to reproduce, and warning that those who transition medically may live to regret their choice. 

Under a Georgia law passed last year, minors are prohibited from accessing hormone replacement therapy or undergoing surgical interventions to help their body conform to their gender identity. Additionally, doctors who assist youth in obtaining such treatments can have their license to practice revoked.

However, the law does not prohibit youth from obtaining puberty blockers — and does not place limits on adults seeking out gender-affirming care. The law also contains an exception for intersex youth or cisgender youth with hormone deficiencies, who are allowed to receive hormone therapy to conform to their assigned sex at birth.

While there are few reports of clinics that provide gender-affirming care being set afire, many hospitals — especially those that treat minors — have previously received bomb threats.

Alejandra Caraballo, a trans activist and clinical instructor at the Harvard Law School Cyberlaw Clinic, wrote in a post on X that the attack on QMed “is following the anti-abortion playbook of destroying clinics to get them shut down.”

“This is terrorism,” Caraballo said.

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