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Florida medical boards back proposal to ban gender-affirming care for trans youth

 Trans advocates hold up "Protect Trans Kids" signs at a joint Florida Board of Medicine and the Florida Board of Osteopathic Medicine meeting.
Daylina Miller
/
WUSF Public Media
Trans advocates hold up "Protect Trans Kids" signs at a joint Florida Board of Medicine and the Florida Board of Osteopathic Medicine meeting.

Jacob Riley took the day off school and made the drive from Gainesville to Orlando Friday to speak out at a joint committee meeting of the Florida Board of Medicine and the Florida Board of Osteopathic Medicine on the topic of gender-affirming care for transgender youth.

Wiley, 17, started hormone treatment therapy when he was 15, after two years of therapy and social transition, which typically includes changing one’s name, pronouns, and gender expression.

 Jacob Wiley, 17, a Gainesville resident, attended Froday's meeting to testify but the public comment period was cut short.
Daylina Miller
/
WUSF Public Media
Jacob Wiley, 17, a Gainesville resident, attended Froday's meeting to testify but the public comment period was cut short.

“I wouldn't be able to be here at all if it wasn't for me being able to start at such a young age,” he said.

But he didn’t get a chance to speak. After nearly five hours of contentious presentations by six experts and dozens of testimonials, members of the boards cut the public comment period short after letting several anti-trans advocates speak out.

In the end, members of both boards voted on a draft rule that would restrict Florida doctors from providing treatments to transgender people under age 18. They meet again on Friday, Nov. 4 for a final decision and to reveal the rule’s language.

If finalized, it will ban Florida doctors from providing reversible puberty blockers, hormone therapy treatments, and surgery for trans youth — surgery that experts say is rare.

RELATED: What to know about gender-affirming care for trans youth as Florida weighs more restrictions

The proposal will allow children already receiving hormone therapy or puberty blockers to continue their treatment.

In July, the Florida Department of Health filed a petition seeking a rule-making process on the issue of treatment for gender dysphoria, which occurs when a person’s body does not align with their gender identity.

In August, the state Agency for Healthcare Administration banned Medicaid from covering gender-affirming treatments for both minors and adults, forcing many low-income trans people to either detransition, use black market hormones, or move elsewhere for care.

During the meeting’s public comment period, several individuals testified on their experience detransitioning — or regretting their decisions to get hormonal or surgical interventions, and stopping the treatments.

These individuals were all flown in by the state, said Simone Criss, the director of the Transgender Rights Initiative at Southern Legal Counsel.

She said they are witnesses for the state of Florida in a case that her firm filed against AHCA over the Medicaid ban.

“None of these individuals are Florida residents, and none of them have received their treatment in the state of Florida and therefore, their opinion should have absolutely no basis on Florida's standards of care,” Criss said.

“And it is appalling that the actual Florida residents who have experienced with this care who are not flown in by the state of Florida as political props, were not given a chance to speak today."

A study in the medical journal the Lancet earlier this month showed that 98% of their 720 participants diagnosed with gender dysphoria and prescribed hormone treatment as adolescents continued therapy into adulthood.

 Trans advocates staged a "Die-In" at the Hyatt Regency Hotel at Orlando International Airport.
Daylina Miller
/
WUSF Public Media.
Trans advocates staged a "Die-In" at the Hyatt Regency Hotel at Orlando International Airport.

Sarah Parker, 29, is cisgender, which means she identifies with the gender she was assigned at birth. She drove up from Sarasota to speak about her rights as a parent to treat her son.

“I was in the NICU for 52 days with my son. 52 days. My son was two pounds and five ounces. You know what I did? I sat with doctors, several doctors, and they all gave me different options. And then I decided what was best for my family and my son.”

“Now if my son decides that he's trans, you're going to tell me that I don't get that same right and privilege to go sit like I sat with him when he was in the NICU and make a decision with doctors?”

Dr. Meredithe McNamara was one of three experts who spoke out against the draft proposal Friday. When a board member asked her why so many new gender clinics have opened since 2007, and why there are so many more trans children, she addressed the falsehood of “social contagion.”

“We live in a more forgiving and nurturing environment than we did 20 years ago…there are trans and non-binary role models, people who are trailblazing and showing young people it’s safe to be who they are. The data does not back up social contagion.”

McNamara also said that gender-affirming care is “not experimental or investigational,” with more than 16 studies confirming that standard medical treatments for gender dysphoria are safe and effective.

She’s also one of the authors of a paper that critically reviewed the June 2022 Florida Medicaid report on the medical treatment of gender dysphoria.

In it, the authors said, “We are alarmed that Florida’s health care agency has adopted a purportedly scientific report that so blatantly violates the basic tenets of scientific inquiry. The report makes false statements and contains glaring errors regarding science, statistical methods, and medicine.”

Copyright 2022 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7. To see more, visit WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7.

Daylina Miller, multimedia reporter for Health News Florida, was hired to help further expand health coverage statewide.