Florida’s state medical boards voted Friday afternoon to approve the language of a first-of-its-kind rule banning gender-affirming care for transgender minors who don’t already receive it.
The rule updates the medical standards of practice in the state to mostly prohibit health care professionals from starting treatment for gender dysphoria in those younger than 18. Gender dysphoria refers the stress and discomfort some experience when their gender identity doesn’t match their sex assigned at birth.
The measure bans the prescription of puberty blockers or hormone therapy to new patients who are minors, and it forbids gender-affirming surgeries. However, according to the Endocrine Society, the world’s largest organization dedicated to hormone research, adolescents generally do not receive gender-affirming surgery until they are 18, and the effects of a more common treatment for transgender minors, puberty blockers, are reversible.
Dr. Patrick Hunter, a pediatrician who serves on the Florida Board of Medicine, said during the hearing that the rule proposes “ethical, compassionate psychotherapy that respects the child’s experience.” He added that he believes “less harm needs to be done” to youth experiencing gender dysphoria.
In a statement Friday, Equality Florida said once the rule goes into effect, it will be the only ban in the country of gender-affirming care for minors instituted by a state medical board.
“With young lives on the line, another state agency has placed the political ambitions of Ron DeSantis over its duty to protect Floridians,” Nikole Parker, the group’s director of transgender equality, said, referring to the state’s Republican governor. “These rules, as written, put transgender youth at higher risk of depression, anxiety and suicidality.”
The rule was first drafted at a meeting last week that was widely panned by opponents, including the Endocrine Society. In a statement Friday, the group called the boards’ rule “anti-science” and a “blatantly discriminatory” contradiction of the medical guidance of the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Psychological Association and the American Medical Association, which have all publicly supported gender-affirming care for transgender youths experiencing gender dysphoria.
“Medical evidence, not politics, should inform treatment decisions,” the Endocrine Society said in the statement.
The meeting room at a Holiday Inn in Lake Buena Vista was packed Friday with dozens of protesters, who by the end of the meeting were chanting, “We will not be silenced! Stonewall was a riot!” while waving posters criticizing members of the Florida Board of Medicine for their reported monetary support of DeSantis, who has championed a slew of anti-LGBTQ policies in the state.
The Tampa Bay Times reported this week that at least eight of the 14 members of that board have donated to DeSantis’ campaigns or his political action committee. Their total contributions, according to the Times, have been more than $80,000. The board’s chair has said the body is “vociferously apolitical.”
The hearing was filled with intense moments, one of which led to the removal of a transgender woman from the room. The parent of a nonbinary child was also escorted out after comparing the DeSantis administration to a “Nazi regime.”
Kate Danehy-Samitz, the founder and vice president of Women’s Voices of Southwest Florida, called the rule “purposely hateful.”
“You took a Hippocratic Oath,” she told the board members, “not a hypocritical oath.”
There was some confusion after the two boards involved in the vote — the Board of Medicine and the Board of Osteopathic Medicine — failed to reach an agreement about whether nonsurgical treatments for gender dysphoria should continue in clinical trials. The disagreement could, according to Equality Florida, lead to different standards in future clinical trials for doctors with either medical doctorates (M.D.s) or doctorates or osteopathy (D.O.s).
While the language of the rule has officially been approved, it faces one last procedural vote, after which the new standards of practice will become part of the state’s administrative code. The time line for that vote is still unclear.