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Florida Republicans Take Aim at Gender-Affirming Care, Drag Shows

Florida Republicans Take Aim at Gender-Affirming Care, Drag Shows

Florida Rep. Randy Fine and Sen. Clay Yarborough
Photo via Florida House of Representatives; Photo via Twitter

Florida Republican lawmakers are looking to ban gender-affirming care, stop legal changes of gender on birth certificates, and restrict drag shows.

Florida could soon ban medical services for transgender children and prevent transgender people from changing their gender on birth certificates. One proposal would treat gender-affirming care as child abuse and threaten any performance venues allowing children into drag shows.

It’s part of a host of anti-LGBTQ legislation introduced days before Florida starts its annual legislative Session.

The bill, introduced by GOP Florida state Rep. Randy Fine, prohibits state reimbursement for clinical treatment, would prohibit the change of someone's gender on their birth certificate, and ban gender-affirming care for minors.

“Governor (Ron) DeSantis and his right-wing allies have made it clear that they do not believe transgender people exist,” Nikole Parker, director of Transgender Equality for Equality Florida, the state’s largest LGBTQ advocacy group, said in a statement after the bill was introduced.

Florida Sen. Clay Yarborough, also a Republican, filed a similar bill in his chamber of the Legislature. He also filed legislation allowing the state to fine or suspend business licenses for establishments allowing any adult entertainment depicting or simulating nudity or sexual conduct, a move made months after DeSantis threatened to investigate Drag Queen Christmas shows in the state.

“This legislation sends a strong message that Florida is a safe place to raise children,” Yarborough said. “As the father of four young boys, I know that childhood is as special as it is short. Florida parents are worried about the radical, prurient agenda that has become pervasive across most forms of media, specifically targeting young children.”

This week, Tennessee became the first state in the country to restrict drag performances. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre condemned the legislation. Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee “hasn’t been able to cite any examples — anything — to show that drag shows in public spaces are a problem,” she said at a press briefing on Friday, adding “These ridiculous policies aren’t just unnecessary, they are dangerous, they vilify our fellow Americans at a time when LGBTQ+ Americans are facing higher risks [of] violence, mental health issues, and it’s unacceptable, it’s completely unacceptable for a governor to be moving in this way with such a bill, and it’s also unfortunate.”

Lakey Love, of the Florida Coalition for Transgender Liberation, said the Yarborough legislation goes further than much legislation she has seen.

It would treat parents as abusers for allowing medical care to children, and cracks down on parenting harder even than Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s notorious anti-trans child executive order.

Love notes part of the legislation put forward reclassifies the definition of sexes in state statute, something that impacts adults as well as children. “This feels a lot like genocide,” they said. “It criminalizes trans existence.”

Yarborough in a statement painted medical care for LGBTQ youth in dire terms.

“As lawmakers, we have to draw the line when drastic, life-altering gender dysphoria therapies and surgeries are mutilating young children,” he said. “We also have a responsibility to protect children from viewing lewd conduct that is patently offensive to prevailing standards in our communities. Whether it is a business that knowingly admits children to view performances meant for an adult audience, or schools that allow pornographic instructional materials that promote promiscuity, we must take a strong stand for child safety and against a troubling social agenda that seeks to indoctrinate young children and replace the role of parents.”

Parker called the bill denying medication for minors especially cruel.

“It goes beyond denying us medical freedom to policing who we can be,” Parker said. “Republican leadership is saying that from the moment of birth, you should not — and in important ways cannot — be recognized by anything other than your genitals. And from that bigoted place of denying the very humanity of transgender Floridians, they are ruthlessly bending the power of government to erase the community altogether. Transgender people are neighbors, friends, family members. We exist and we matter. This bill to rip away lifesaving health care, shred insurance coverage, and bar birth certificate access will cost lives.”

But leadership in the GOP-controlled Legislature quickly came out in support of the bills, likely meaning the legislation will pass and make it to the desk of DeSantis, who has a record of supporting anti-LGBTQ policies.

“Parents have the right to raise their children as they see fit, and government intervention should be a last resort,” said Florida Senate President Kathleen Passidomo. “Unfortunately, all too often we are hearing about treatments for gender dysphoria being administered to children, often very young children. That’s just wrong, and we need to step in and make sure it isn’t happening in our state.”

The majority of medical associations actually supports gender-affirming care for trans youth.

Love harbors many questions about the long-term ramifications of the legislation if passed. Will it be retroactive, allowing punishment of parents and medical professionals who provided care before passage of the bill? If care already being applied to children ceases, will that shield individuals from prosecution?

“We have a lot of questions as the state moves toward treating this as child abuse,” Love said. “Can the state come at parents for just supporting a child through a transition and becoming who they are?”

(Photos: Florida state Rep. Randy Fine, left, and state Sen. Clay Yarborough.)

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