NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Upset with what they called “dangerous rhetoric,” protesters gathered Wednesday morning outside the Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, where some gender-affirming surgeries have been put on hold.

“I have not backed down from my identity. I have not backed down from who I am since I was 13 years old,” said Markus Thurman, referring to his age when he came out as a transgender man.

“When I was 14, a year into being out, I was sexually assaulted on the basis of the fact that I am transgender,” he added.

Thurman shared all aspects of his seven year journey outside of the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital on Wednesday, Oct. 19.

“My body has been through a lot of stress, and I still choose to transition because it is not a luxury, or it shouldn’t be,” he said. “It is a right.”

Thurman, along with pastors, doctors, and advocates, were all supporting the children’s hospital and its pediatric transgender clinic.

In late September, the clinic came under fire after political commentator Matt Walsh posted a series of tweets criticizing and questioning its practices.

Since then, U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn, state Sen. Jack Johnson, and state Rep. William Lamberth have been vocal about the hospital’s clinic.

“They spread false and dangerous rhetoric, putting transgender youth, doctors, and our local children’s hospital at risk,” said Rev. Kelli X.

X, as well as Nashville physician Dr. Amy Gordon Bono, said these lawmakers were creating rhetoric and laws that could potentially harm transgender youth and healthcare workers.

“We need leaders expanding our access to health care not inhumanely restricting it,” said Bono.

The clinic has since paused gender affirming surgeries for patients under 18, but those who spoke Wednesday said they will continue to push for more research on this issue

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“You are not protecting children,” said Thurman. “You are protecting yourselves from the unknown, and you are willfully keeping it as the unknown to yourselves. There is information out there that is not backed by sources that are filled with bigotry and hatred and fearmongering.”

Disability Advocate Anna Caudill said she did reach out to the governor’s chief of staff to speak more about this issue, but she has yet to hear back.

According to the group, the next step is to unify and work to get more people out to the polls to vote.