Showdown: LGBTQ+ rights vs. state ban on transition-related medical care for trans kids

Grassroots groups, including Equality Florida, are mobilizing to show the state they won’t allow leaders to strip them of their rights without a fight

By: - August 3, 2022 6:28 pm

Students protesting at the Florida Capitol. Mar. 3, 2022. Credit: Danielle J. Brown

With LGBTQ+ rights in the crosshairs of conservative groups across the country, Florida is doubling down in its crusade against transgender and gender-nonconforming kids and adults.

Gov. Ron DeSantis highlighted his administration’s anti-LGBTQ+ efforts on Wednesday during a press conference in Brevard County. The conference was centered around a new initiative to provide treatment for opioid addiction.

DeSantis said he was intent on “protecting children,” and with that, he launched into bragging about his administration’s recent anti-LGBTQ policies.

That includes the Florida Department of Health seeking to ban certain medical care for transgender kids and adults. A similar policy was rejected in West Virginia this week in a federal ruling.

One of the things that they’re trying to do is they talk about these very young kids getting gender-affirming care,” DeSantis said, which he claimed includes double mastectomies — accurately known as top surgery among trans and non-binary communities — and “castration” for transfeminine kids, likening them to livestock.

Current medical guidelines do not recommend gender-affirming surgeries for children under 18, and they typically aren’t eligible for surgical transition. Those seeking medical transition might instead take medication to delay puberty and replace certain hormones, which most major medical organizations, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommend for those experiencing gender dysphoria.

“I think these doctors need to get sued for what’s happening,” DeSantis said to applause from his friendly audience.

What happens next? Mobilization

The Florida Board of Medicine will meet Friday to decide what they’ll allow for people seeking transition-related medical care.

During the meeting, the board will also consider a petition the state health department filed last week asking the board to ban all transition-related medical care for children, including puberty blocking medication and hormone replacement therapy.

Both treatments are generally viewed as life-saving, medically-necessary care by many in transgender and gender-nonconforming communities.

Several grassroots groups, including Equality Florida and South Florida chapters of Florida’s LGBTQ+ Democratic Caucus, are mobilizing to show the state they won’t allow leaders to strip them of their rights without a fight.

They’ll hold rallies just outside the Fort Lauderdale Airport Marriott in Dania Beach, where the Board of Medicine is meeting to workshop standards of care for transgender and gender-nonconforming patients.

The board consists of fifteen members appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate. It’s been stacked with anti-trans doctors, some of whom are affiliated with anti-trans fringe movements such as Genspect and the Society for Evidence-based Gender Medicine, known as SEGM.

The Board of Medicine will consider whether to continue providing gender-affirming care for children and limiting adults’ access to it.

On Wednesday, VICE News reported that some 10 researchers told the outlet they weren’t aware of an April memo and that the Florida Department of Health misrepresented the 10 researchers’ work to justify denying gender-affirming care to all minors in the state. VICE News found that all 12 citations Florida presents against the use of gender-affirming care are either distorted or from a source with clear anti-trans bias.

In crafting the memo, Florida’s health department reverse-engineered rationale for a policy completely counter to research-based medical best practices, VICE wrote.

The Florida Department of Health claimed in last week’s petition that the agency could not find evidence indicating treatments that can delay puberty are safe for children and labeled the treatments as “experimental.”

The department accused the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Endocrine Society of misleading the public into believing the treatments are safe because the agencies support gender-affirming care for adults and adolescents.

The health department asked the board of medicine to prohibit “sex reassignment surgery or any other procedure that alters primary or secondary sexual characteristics for the treatment of gender dysphoria” for patients younger than 18. That includes puberty blockers and hormone replacement therapies.

The health department also suggested adults seeking gender-affirming care must be approved by the board of medicine at least 24 hours before treatment is provided.

Lastly, the department proposed the board should guide physicians to pull hormone replacement therapy from their patients who are already receiving it — a move that would forcefully detransition transgender and gender-nonconforming patients.

Biden’s protections for trans kids

Later, DeSantis brought up the clash between the state and President Joe Biden’s administration over protections for transgender kids. He framed his administration’s ban on transfeminine athletes competing in school sports as “protecting the fairness and integrity of sports for our girls and our women athletes.”

“However, Biden is now threatening to penalize states that have taken basic, commonsense action, like, just recognizing the importance of women’s sports,” he said, claiming that Biden’s administration threatened to take away lunch money from poor kids as punishment for the transgender athlete ban.

He defended his opposition to teaching about America’s history of slavery and racism, as well as gender identity, and sexual orientation in public schools, especially in the early grades.

“You teach reading, math, science, the basic stuff, and you don’t teach gender ideology, CRT, the sexuality in the elementary schools,” he said. “So, we’re very much committed to that, when parents send their kids to school in Florida, it’s for an education, it’s not for an indoctrination.”

Florida Phoenix Deputy Editor Michael Moline contributed to this report.

Note: This story has been changed since first published to include more accurate nomenclature for gender-reassignment surgery.

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Brooke Baitinger
Brooke Baitinger

Brooke is a Florida native and has covered the state's LGBTQ+ news and culture for three years. She studied journalism at the University of Florida. When she's not writing stories, she enjoys hanging out with her cats, riding horses or spending time outdoors.