Florida medical board votes to ban ‘life-saving’ gender-affirming care for trans kids

A trans rights protester holds a sign that reads: "Trans healthcare saves lives."

The Florida Board of Medicine (FBM) has voted to ban lifesaving gender-affirming care for trans youth in the state.

The FBM voted on Friday (4 November) to begin drafting a law that would ban all trans under-18s in the state from having access to puberty blockers, hormone therapy or surgeries, NBC News reported.

The proposed rule, which passed in a 6-3 vote, will also freeze gender-affirming medical care for those trans young people who are already accessing it.

A board committee approved the rule’s first stages in October after first being proposed by governor Ron DeSantis in April, and the ban will now be drafted as a law.

The guidance to restrict gender-affirming care for young people goes against advice from numerous medical experts and institutions, including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association. The American Medical Association went as far as to call for politicians to “stop interfering” in trans people’s healthcare.

An opinion piece in the Tampa Bay Times in April saw 300 healthcare professionals decry DeSantis’ rhetoric around banning gender-affirming care for under-18s, telling Florida lawmakers that “taking away social support and medical care is not the answer”.

Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has slammed the decision, saying in a statement that the vote was based on “incomplete data and manipulated claims”.

Sarah Warbelow, HRC legal director, said: “Today’s vote to deny medically necessary, age-appropriate healthcare to transgender young people will do irreparable harm to countless Floridian kids and their families.

“The decision was based upon incomplete data and manipulated claims that do not reflect science, medicine, or any other evidence-based approach to life-saving, medically necessary care.

“Transgender youth are already at a higher risk of depression, anxiety, and suicide due to stigma and discrimination, all of which will only be exacerbated by this denial of care.

“The Florida Board of Medicine should take immediate steps to rescind this rule and provide the support that trans youth need to thrive.”

Access to gender-affirming care has not simply been limited for young people in Florida, however, with a ban put in place in the state for those obtaining gender-affirming care on Medicaid, disproportionately affecting lower-income trans people.

The new law bans trans people from accessing hormone medications or surgery using the medical expenses assistance programme.

The HRC said at the time of the ban in August that the move would affect the care of approximately 9,000 transgender Floridians who rely on Medicaid.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis wearing a black shirt and jacket looks on before the start of a game between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Florida Gators

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has been outspokenly anti-LGBTQ+ during his career. (Getty)

While Floridians have seen a barrage of anti-LGBTQ+ bills in 2022, none have been more high-profile than the reviled Don’t Say Gay law, which bans the discussion of LGBTQ+ topics between kindergarten and third grade in the state.

The law, which came into effect in June, saw teachers hiding their identities at work and children unable to speak about queer identities.

In April, a gay science teacher from Orlando told NBC News that he was leaving the profession due to the archaic law.

Robert Thollander left the school after 11 years, saying Don’t Say Gay made him feel like he “wasn’t trusted because there’s something wrong” with being gay.

“It makes it seem like being gay is something vile or disturbing or disgusting when it’s described as making children uncomfortable knowing that I’m married to a man… it hurt,” he said.

President Joe Biden said of Don’t Say Gay: “I want every member of the LGBTQI+ community – especially the kids who will be impacted by this hateful bill – to know that you are loved and accepted just as you are.

“I have your back, and my administration will continue to fight for the protections and safety you deserve.”