News (USA)

Florida medical boards vote to ban gender-affirming care for youth

Ron DeSantis wearing a suit and red tie.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) Photo: Shutterstock

On Friday, two Florida medical boards – Florida Board of Medicine and the Florida Board of Osteopathic Medicine – voted to institute a ban on gender-affirming care for trans youth.

The new rules proposed by Florida’s Health Department in April and backed by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) prohibit gender-affirming surgical procedures (which experts say are almost never performed on young people); medications like puberty blockers and hormone therapy; and “any other procedure that alters primary or secondary sexual characteristics for the treatment of gender dysphoria” for patients under 18. They also institute a mandatory 24-hour waiting period for adults seeking gender-affirming care.

In October, a joint committee voted to advance the proposed rules to a final vote after five hours of heated testimony, which Harvard Law Cyberlaw Clinic’s Alejandra Caraballo characterized as “stacked against trans youth.”

Proponents of the ban were reportedly allowed to speak first, some making misleading and false claims. One doctor who testified in favor of the ban falsely claimed that 90% of trans youth de-transition.

According to Common Dreams, public commentary was overwhelmingly against the ban, with many making impassioned pleas for the boards not to restrict crucial medical care.

“Gender-affirming care saved my life at 16,” said Aaron Demlow. “Please do not take this vital care away from other young people like me.”

“Going on testosterone is the single best decision I have ever made in my life and that is not an exaggeration,” said a 15-year-old in written testimony. “I am no longer suicidal. I can finally acknowledge and embrace the fact that I have a future, and a family that loves and accepts me for who I am. I don’t have to pretend to be someone else anymore. Until now. Until you.”

Despite this, the committee ended public comment early, telling opponents of the ban to email them. Queer activist Erin Reed called the proceedings “a sham hearing with fake experts.”

And now the boards have officially voted to institute the rules, even though gender-affirming care for both adolescents and adults has been endorsed by the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychiatric Association, and many other professional groups as necessary and frequently lifesaving for transgender individuals. Vice News reported in August that 10 researchers whose work was cited in Florida’s guidance say that their research was misrepresented or distorted to justify denying gender-affirming care.

The new rules will not apply to those who are already undergoing gender-affirming medical care, The Hill reported.

There was one area where the two boards diverged: The Board of Osteopathic Medicine voted to allow nonsurgical gender dysphoria treatments to continue in clinical trials approved by the Institutional Review Board, whereas the Florida Board of Medicine said no.

A report by the Tampa Bay Times shows that members of the Florida Board of Medicine, all 14 of whom were appointed by DeSantis, have collectively donated over $80,000 to the politician, who also signed the Don’t Say Gay bill into law and routinely speaks out against LGBTQ youth and gender-affirming care. The publication also found that the chairperson of the Osteopathic Board, Sandra Schwemmer, donated $3,000 to the DeSantis gubernatorial campaign in 2018.

“With young lives on the line, another state agency has placed the political ambitions of Ron DeSantis over its duty to protect Floridians,” said Nikole Parker, Equality Florida Director of Transgender Equality, in a statement.

“These rules, as written, put transgender youth at higher risk of depression, anxiety, and suicidality. Those are the facts purposely ignored by a Board of Medicine stacked with DeSantis political appointees who have put their toxic politics over people’s health and wellbeing. Transgender Floridians exist. We are part of this community. Gender-affirming care is lifesaving care – and it is care that is supported by every major medical organization, an overwhelming majority of medical providers, and should be left to young people, their families, and their doctors. Not politicians.”

“Shame on the Florida Boards of Medicine and Osteopathy for trading the suffering of transgender youth and their parents for cheap political points.”

The finalized rules will be posted online. From there, LGBTQ advocates have the right to request another hearing. If that request is denied, there will be a 21-day public comment period before one more vote.

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