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Florida Rains Down Restrictions on LGBTQ+ Youth, Gender-Affirming Care

Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz and Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo

The Florida Department of Health has released proposed state rules banning gender-affirming care for minors and restricting access even for adults.

Citing some reports that suggest many trans youth grow out of gender dysphoria, the officials came out against medical professionals recommending any such care. However, major medical organizations have endorsed gender-affirming care for young people, and studies indicate that desires to "detransition" are rare. 

The American Medical Association has said that trans and nonbinary gender identities are "normal variations of human identity and expression, and that forgoing gender-affirming care can have tragic health consequences, both mental and physical." Pediatricians and public health professionals have also voiced unease with legislation and policies targeting gender-affirming care, which they say could contribute to mental health concerns for trans kids and high suicide rates among trans youth.

But Florida officials beg to differ. “These endorsements have permeated both the general public and health care community and created a false impression that chemical and surgical intervention is not only clinically proven, but the standard of care for treatment of gender dysphoria in Florida,” the state's new rules note.

Critics immediately attacked the decision as anti-LGBTQ+.

“It’s Sunday morning and the State of FL DOH has released their disgusting proposed transphobic rule that would BAN access to gender affirming care for those under the age of 18 & create restrictions for adults too,” tweeted Florida Rep. Anna Eskamani, an Orlando Democrat. “They claim there is no evidence to support life saving gender affirming care & then ban it based on political ideology, not health. As someone who helped to establish a gender affirming care program at [Planned Parenthood] & works w/#LGBTQ+ service providers & constituents I am disgusted by this. Not just disgusted, I am enraged.”

The move came days after Gov. Ron DeSantis’s administration went after the liquor license of a gay bar for hosting a drag show involving youth, as Florida Politics reported.

And in another assault on LGBTQ+ youth, Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz released a memo saying the state will not comply with Biden administration guidelines advising that students be allowed to use bathrooms and locker room facilities corresponding to their gender identity.

“The Department will not stand idly by as federal agencies attempt to impose a sexual ideology on Florida schools that risk the health, safety, and welfare of Florida students,” Diaz wrote in the memo.

That appears to not only put the state at odds with the Department of Education but with a Justice Neil Gorsuch-penned Supreme Court decision prohibiting discrimination against gender and sexual minorities.

The Florida Board of Medicine will formally meet Friday to discuss the proposed change in rules on affirming care. If adopted, Medicaid in Florida will no longer cover such care, and health providers in Florida will be prohibited from providing care to youth.

The potential changes sparked protests in Orlando this weekend, according to Orlando’s ABC affiliate.

LGBTQ+ advocates showed up with signs about protecting trans children. Meanwhile, counterprotesters showed up with signs bearing anti-trans slurs and accusing advocates of “grooming” children.

Florida Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, the first out Latino in the Florida Legislature, slammed the sentiments and the state for encouraging the hate.

“Disgusting to see transphobia and anti-Semitism on display trying to distract from our rally for trans rights today,” he tweeted. “It’s another powerful reminder that we all have an obligation to speak out against the DeSantis administration’s attacks on the rights of trans people to exist.”

Meanwhile, the Department of Health mocked reporters openly who used the term “gender-affirming” in questions about the proposed rule change.

“By ‘gender affirming care’ you mean puberty blockers, hormone treatments, and double mastectomies you/transgendered girls, right?” Jeremy Redfern, a spokesman for the department, wrote in an email to a TV station shared on Twitter. 

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