Florida Medical Board Bans Care of Transgender Minors


Florida’s medical board approved a rule Friday barring minors from receiving puberty blockers, hormone therapy or surgery as treatments for gender dysphoria.

The ban, which will take effect after a 21-day public comment period, includes a non-surgical exception for young people already in care. Doctors who violate the new rules could face penalties, including losing their medical license.

Other states have tried to limit such care, but Florida is the first to do so through its medical board. Legislatures in Arkansas and Alabama approved similar measures, but families filed lawsuits against both parties and a judge barred either party from taking effect while the lawsuit was ongoing. Arizona lawmakers also passed a ban earlier this year, but the law has yet to go into effect and activists have vowed to sue.

Several professional organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association, and the Endocrine Society, have recognized puberty blockers and hormones as appropriate treatments for young adults with gender dysphoria. Puberty blockers and hormone therapy can reduce emotional distress and reduce suicide risk in transgender youth, study finds.

The head of the American Medical Association said last year that preventing young people from accessing such care could have “tragic health consequences.”

Despite such guidance, Florida’s conservative leaders have repeatedly tried to prevent young people from transitioning. Republicans tried to pass a ban earlier this year, but the bill was shelved in committee.

April, Governor. Ron DeSantis (R) and Florida surgeon Joseph Ladapo released guidelines suggesting that young people should not be allowed to make social transitions by using different names, pronouns or clothing styles, Or receive gender-affirming healthcare treatments such as puberty blockers or crossover hormones.

In June, Ladapo, citing “very weak” evidence in support of gender-affirming care, asked medical boards to “establish standards of care for these complex and irreversible procedures.” DeSantis appointed all 14 members of the board, and a Tampa Bay Times analysis this week found at least eight donated money to the Republican governor’s campaign or political committee.

The board met Friday afternoon — so close to the midterm elections that a state representative, Democrat Anna Escamani, accused the board of using the vote to drum up support for DeSantis’ re-election.

Although the joint committee ultimately heard public comments from 16 people — eight in favor and eight against the rule — members voted on the rule before hearing public comment.

In a split vote that the medical board’s lawyers say he has never seen, the osteopathic medical board will allow new patients enrolled in clinical trials to receive treatment, while the Florida medical board will not. That means the state will have two criteria, one for its 57,354 doctors and one for its 7,842 osteopaths. (Like doctors, osteopaths prescribe medication and perform surgery, but they go through a different four-year training course, focusing on preventative care rather than treating symptoms.)

David A. Diamond, a radiation oncologist and chairman of the medical board, was one of three opponents who voted to exclude doctors as well.

“The main consensus of all experts — and I must stress this — is the urgent need for more high-quality clinical research,” Diamond said. “I said let’s look into it. … Let’s be the light of the world and let us know what’s the best way to look after these people. Otherwise we’ll never know.”

The board’s decision follows a long and exciting committee meeting in October. Committee members met for five hours in a conference room at an Orlando airport hotel, as pro-ban activists flew in from across the country to testify.

Many said they had experienced trauma and thought the transition would ease their mental health issues. They said they took transgender hormones and underwent surgery, but later regretted those interventions. (A team of researchers at Princeton University recently found that only 2.5 percent of transgender youth revert to their original gender within five years.)

Chloe Cole, who describes herself as an “18-year-old trans woman” from California’s Central Valley, said she transitioned at 12 and had a bilateral mastectomy at 15. She said she now “deeply regrets” the surgery.

“I want to be a mother one day, but I’ll never be able to feed my future children naturally,” Cole testified. “My breasts are beautiful. Now they’re burning in vain.”

Over the past six months, Cole has become one of the most prominent speakers of the reversal movement. She has testified before lawmakers in Louisiana, Ohio, the District of Columbia and California. Last month, she spoke at right-wing political commentator Matt Walsh’s “Rally to End Child Cruelty” in Nashville.

At least one Florida committee member said she found Cole’s testimony compelling and strong enough to bar minors from care.

Fifty trans rights activists attended the committee meeting, and several signed up to speak, but only one, Jude Speegle, was given time during the public comment period. Speegle read the names of 17 trans teens who “choose suicide rather than live in a world that refuses to acknowledge or accept them”.

Shortly after Speegle ended, committee chair Zachariah P. Zachariah, a Fort Lauderdale cardiologist, shortened the meeting. Zechariah told the crowd to email him when the crowd complained that Zacharias had barred nine transition activists from speaking after allowing them to testify.

The crowd protested and started shouting: “Their blood is on your hands.”

Zachariah, a longtime board member, wrote a $25,000 check to Ron DeSantis’ friends in May, but he remained unmoved.

“It’s okay,” he said.

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