Florida’s Department of Health has issued guidance against gender-affirming care for transgender minors in the state, including “social gender transition” measures like changing pronouns or wearing different clothes.
The guidance issued by the department on 20 April under Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo pushes against federal health guidance that finds that gender-affirming care for young transgender people is “crucial to overall health and well-being as it allows the child or adolescent to focus on social transitions and can increase their confidence while navigating the healthcare system.”
In its non-binding notice to health providers in the state, Florida’s Health Department issued a “fact check” to dispute federal health officials, and stated that children under 18 years old should be denied access to puberty blockers and hormone therapy – which are not irreversible treatments – and gender-affirming surgeries.
“The federal government’s medical establishment releasing guidance failing at the most basic level of academic rigor shows that this was never about health care,” Mr Ladapo said in a statement. “It was about injecting political ideology into the health of our children. Children experiencing gender dysphoria should be supported by family and seek counseling, not pushed into an irreversible decision before they reach 18.”
The notice follows an unprecedented wave of GOP-led legislation across the US restricting transgender healthcare and banning transgender athletes from school sports, among dozens of bills targeting LGBT+ Americans.
It also flies against evidence from leading medical groups, including the World Professional Association for Transgender Health as well as the American Medical Association, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians.
In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott’s administration has called for the state’s child protection agencies to prosecute families for child abuse for seeking gender-affirming care for their transgender children. A judge has temporarily blocked the governor’s directive.
Florida Republican legislator Randy Fine – who is currently leading efforts to strip the Walt Disney Company of its governing agreement with the state for control of its parks and resorts – has pledged to introduce a bill next year criminalising gender-affirming care for minors as a felony.
Similar legislation also was approved this year in Alabama; a sweeping measure signed into law last month could imprison doctors for up to to a decade for prescribing medical treatments to transgender youth. A group of doctors have sued the state to block the law, which is set to go into effect in May.
LGBT+ advocacy group Equality Florida condemned Florida’s health guidance, claiming that Republican Governor Ron DeSantis and his administration have sought to “replace science and the safety of young people with political propaganda.”
“This guidance demonizes life-saving, medically necessary care, and asserts that the government, not parents, knows best when it comes to health care for our children,” the organisation said in a statement. “Parents should be deciding, in partnership with their child’s doctor, based on science, not politics, what is best for their children.”
The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that only one in three young transgender people consider their home to be gender-affirming.
Another report from the organisation, published in Transgender Health, found that acceptance of one’s gender identity from their parents was associated with 4 per cent lower odds of attempting suicide among transgender and nonbinary youth.
Recent polling from Morning Consult on behalf of organisation found that 85 per cent of transgender and nonbinary youth reported negative impacts to their mental health following recent debates over state legislation that impacts their care.
When asked about legislation that would ban physicians from prescribing gender-affirming care, 7 per cent of respondents said it made them feel angry, 57 per cent felt sad, 47 per cent felt stressed, 40 per cent felt scared, and more than one-third felt hopeless, helpless, and/or nervous, according to the report.
The American Civil Liberties Union called Florida’s latest guidance a “desperate effort to sow lies and fear about transgender youth, their parents, and their health care.”
“Trans youth know who they are,” the organisation said. “We’re ready to do everything in our power to defend the fundamental rights of trans youth and their families.”