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Florida Lawmakers Unmoved by Trans Witnesses & Parents’ Pleas

Florida Lawmakers Unmoved by Trans Witnesses & Parents’ Pleas

Kaleb Hobson-Garcia and Jim Walker

“If you pass this bill today, know that you’re forcing me to use the bathroom with your daughters, wives, mothers, and sisters,” a bearded transgender man told the lawmakers.

Before voting to advance a new anti-LGBTQ+ measure, Florida lawmakers heard impassioned pleas by transgender people and parents of transgender kids asking Republicans to acknowledge their existence and rights during a hearing held by the state House Health and Human Services Committee to consider a bill banning gender-affirming care for minors and restricting it for adults.

On Monday, the Committee voted to advance HB 1421 to prohibit minors from receiving gender-affirming care.

Under HB 1421, children younger than 18 would be prohibited from having hormone therapy or surgery. If doctors do not comply with this rule, they will be charged with a third-degree felony. Furthermore, the law would require minors who already receive gender-affirming treatment to terminate it by the end of the year.

At the hearing, lawmakers heard more than an hour of public comments.

Citizens spoke in support and against the measure.

One opponent of the bill and a similar bill, HB 1521, banning transgender people from using bathrooms in line with their gender identity used himself as an example of why GOP measures attacking transgender people are bigoted and ill-conceived.

Kaleb Hobson-Garcia, a Florida State University senior preparing to graduate, addressed the room. Hobson-Garcia, sporting a full beard, was dressed in a suit. His voice boomed as he explained that he was speaking before the lawmakers instead of finishing up his semester.

“I have just one question for you,” he said. “To the sponsor of this bill, do you want me in the women’s restroom with you? Because if this bill passes, you’ll be requiring trans men like me to use the women’s restroom or face criminal punishment.”

Hobson-Garcia continued, “This is rooted in trans misogyny, which is a hatred of trans women. It’s rooted in your hatred of non-passing trans people because being faced with trans people makes you uncomfortable. You haven’t even stopped to consider the trans people who look like me who have passing privilege, which means I’m perceived as cisgender, most of the time. You haven’t even considered what me following the law would look like.”

Hobson-Garcia then challenged Republicans to consider how the reality of forcing people to use particular bathrooms would manifest.

“It looks like me in the stall next to the females with my low voice and my facial hair. It looks like me with characteristics that terrify people when they’re seen on trans women. It looks like me bringing discomfort and potentially traumatic experiences to women if I follow the law,” he said. “When this bathroom ban passes, it also puts my safety at risk. What happens when husbands see me following their wives into restrooms?”

Hobson-Garcia explained that the law would open the door to aggressive confrontation in and out of bathrooms with strangers suddenly inspecting others’ genitals or demanding proof of their gender. In addition, he noted that cisgender people who don’t conform to stereotypical appearances would also be at risk.

“If you pass this bill today, know that you’re forcing me to use the bathroom with your daughters, wives, mothers, and sisters,” he said.

Jim Walker, a father of a cisgender child in the National Guard and a transgender daughter in high school, spoke for about five minutes pleading with GOP lawmakers to hear him.

He said that when his daughter came to him and explained that she thought she might be transgender, the family consulted with their pediatrician, who referred them to a clinic specializing in gender-affirming care.

“It was a two-hour drive to that first appointment, and we had absolutely no idea what to expect when we walked into that doctor’s office,” Walker said. “My entire family was gripped in fear because we wanted to support our child. And I’ll never forget leaving there with this incredible sense of peace because these doctors — I can’t speak to every trans parent or every trans kid in the world, but I can speak to mine — the doctors in the first five minutes guaranteed us, they would not talk about surgery until our child was no longer a minor. And they talked about what the journey looked like, and it was a very methodical process. No one gave my kid a prescription on the first day.”

He explained that the staff talked with his daughter and explained that she was in control of her life and could change her mind anytime without anybody being mad or having other expectations.

“No one’s pressured my kid to do anything they weren’t comfortable with.,” he said. “And we have looked at every single piece of care to ensure it was right for our kid and to make sure that they felt comfortable with it. So again, I can’t speak to everyone, but in our case, my child is now my sophomore in high school. She is one of the top 10 debaters in the state. She is thriving with a group of friends who love and accept her. And when I look at her, all I see is just a happy teenager. And that’s all I want from my kids, is to be happy in who they are.”

Walker challenged the lawmakers to explain why doctors are trusted about everything except, among Republicans, in this one treatment area.

“I don’t understand that,” he said. “How are they right about everything else? About diabetes, about cancer, about a broken arm, about strep throat, about the flu, but wrong about this? I implore you to vote no and vote this down so that kids like mine can continue to grow up happy.”

In the end, Republicans disregarded the public’s pleas and passed the measure.

The state's GOP-majority legislature is considering a number of anti-LGBTQ+ bills, including legislation to expand the state's infamous "don't say gay" law.

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