Florida medical boards advance rule banning gender-affirming care for minors

The banning of gender-affirming care for transgender youth in Florida took one step closer to becoming a reality after a joint committee of the state’s two medical boards voted in favor of a proposed rule that could drastically limit care for the treatment of gender dysphoria in minors.

In a contentious five-hour meeting in Orlando on Friday, members from the state’s board of medicine and osteopathic medicine voted in favor of sending the controversial rule to the full boards on Friday. If passed, the rule would likely ban trans youth from using puberty blockers, hormone replacement therapy as well as surgical interventions — which are extremely rare — as treatment for their gender dysphoria.

Both trans rights advocates and right-wing activists who oppose gender-affirming care for youth showed up at the meeting, which was open to the public and included testimony from six experts on gender-affirming care. But according to Equality Florida, “anti-trans activists” were given priority to express their thoughts, “while transgender Floridians [were] silenced.”

State Rep. Carlos G. Smith, a Democrat, tweeted that the meeting was “a sham.”

Smith, the state’s first LGBTQ Latino lawmaker, wrote that all speakers who agreed with the state’s position were allowed to speak first. “When they ran out of people on their side, they cut off public comment from Floridians OPPOSED to the politicization of gender-affirming care.”

Discussion of a proposed rule that would restrict gender-affirming care for trans youth followed a “thoroughly debunked” memo issued by the state’s Department of Health in April, according to Equality Florida.

The memo, slammed by the Human Rights Campaign as “dangerous and life-threatening,” recommended against the provision of gender-affirming treatment for youth by rejecting “the science, medicine, and evidence-based approach” used by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Instead, the state “dangerously” selected information to assert its claims, the LGBTQ organization said.

According to HHS guidance, “gender-affirming care improves the mental health and overall well-being of gender-diverse children and adolescents” — an assessment supported by major medical associations in the U.S., including the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“Gender-affirming care is lifesaving care,” Nikole Parker, Transgender Equality director, said after the meeting. “When we affirm young people, they are less likely to face depression, anxiety, and suicide,” she said, adding that the state’s “unrelenting transphobia” is putting the lives of trans youth at risk.

“Medical decisions should be made between providers, young people, and their families — not politicians,” Parker said. “This cruelty, on display during [Friday’s] sham meeting in which transgender Floridians and their allies were silenced, will cost lives and the Boards of Medicine and Osteopathy should reject this dangerous rule.”

In a study published in 2020, U.S. researchers analyzed data from more than 20,000 trans adults, ages 18 to 36, and found that 90% of those who didn’t have access to pubertal suppression during adolescence either thought about or planned on dying by suicide — a rate that was significantly higher than the 75% for those who did have access to them.