Florida Medical Board Votes to Ban Kids' Gender-Affirming Care

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Florida protesters
Florida protesters

The Florida Board of Medicine Friday took a first step toward banning gender-affirming care for transgender youth.

The board voted to "consider" guidelines proposed by the state's surgeon general that reject standards of care endorsed by major medical associations, The Independent reports. The action doesn't limit such care immediately but starts the process of doing so. "The decision from the governor-appointed board initiates a formal rule-changing process that would deny trans youth from receiving such care and forcibly detransition them," the publication explains. "The process could take several months."

The guidance from Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo says people under 18 should not be prescribed puberty blockers or hormone treatment, should not undergo gender-affirming surgery, and should not even transition socially. Doctors do not recommend surgery for this population, but treatment with puberty blockers and hormones is common (and largely reversible), as is social transition. Ladapo has been controversial for these guidelines and other matters, with former colleagues in California disputing his claims about treating COVID-19 patients there. He has recently released proposed rules to implement his gender-transition guidance.

Ladapo has claimed that the current standards of transition-related care are based on questionable evidence, and the Florida Department of Health recently filed a petition stating the same thing, but that is not true. "A report from Vice found that all 12 citations in [Ladapo's] memo either distort the work that was cited or come from explicitly anti-trans sources," The Independent notes.

Those on both sides of the debate packed a conference room at the Fort Lauderdale Airport Marriott. University of Florida Professor and Chief of Pediatric Endocrinology Michael Haller, who testified during Friday’s hearing as an expert, blasted the proposal as politically motivated, according to Politico.

“This has been pushed to the board as a political maneuver,” Haller said. “Trans people have always existed, they will always exist, whether you choose to acknowledge that or not.”

Twenty-year-old Florida State University student Kaleb Hobson-Garcia told the panel that he received gender affirming care when he was 12, Politico reports. He said he supported gender-affirming care.

“I urge you to think of the kids like me, who were scared and found comfort in being able to receive necessary health care,” he said, adding, “My identity is not an epidemic.”

Outside of the hotel, a crowd gathered to support gender-affirming health care.

"It is as basic as social transition," John Harris Maurer of Equality Florida said, according to Miami TV station WPLG. "Things like names, haircuts, the clothing that people wear, or things like puberty blockers that are about delaying the onset of puberty so that folks have more time to consider these kinds of decisions."

The LGBTQ+ consumer liaison at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Nathan Bruemmer, said he's proud to serve the state's many LGBTQ+ residents and all Floridians.

"I'm especially proud to serve in this moment as a transgender man, he said, adding, "I assure you, no one is weaponizing the Department of Agriculture under Commissioner Nikki Fried's leadership."

Fried, a Democrat who serves as Florida's commissioner of agriculture and consumer services, has been an outspoken supporter of the LGBTQ+ community in a state where it is under constant attack.

Outside the conference hotel location, he said his department's role is to educate, advocate, and protect consumers from fraud and discrimination.

State agencies should be focused on licensing and regulating health insurance, cost control, and quality improvement, he said. "Instead, we're here today witnessing state-sanctioned discrimination, hatred, bigotry, transphobia, and this is not the best of who we are as the great state of Florida."

The fact that the same treatment is available to others but denied to a few merely because of who they are is discriminatory, he said. All Floridians should have access to nondiscriminatory health care, he said.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis's administration has been criticized as orchestrating and manipulating the anti-trans campaign.

Bruemmer believes that the attacks on LGBTQ+ families and children in Florida are politically motivated and capricious. Providing poor medical care and support can lead to life-threatening conditions, he said.

"Trans children, like all children, have the best chance to thrive when they are supported and get the healthcare they need," he began.

The fact is that medical decisions are best left to patients, their families, and their health care providers in accordance with medical best practices, he said.

"And thank goodness those exist today. And we are thriving as transgender Americans, all of us."