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Public hearing scheduled for proposals to restrict gender-affirming care for minors in Florida

 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.

The Florida Boards of Medicine and Osteopathic Medicine have scheduled a public hearing on their plans to restrict gender-affirming care for minors. The joint hearing will take place in Tallahassee on Feb. 10.

Transgender kids and their families say they continue to have serious concerns about the changes.

The proposals, as written now, would bar doctors from providing gender-affirming medications to minors, but children already receiving them could continue.

If that happens, Tampa Bay area resident Lisa thinks her 13 year-old daughter should still be able to access the puberty blockers she’s been taking for about a year to delay physical changes that don’t align with her identity. We're not using Lisa's last name to protect her privacy.

But she worries her daughter could face hurdles in the future when she’s ready to start estrogen hormone therapy.

“Is she grand-fathered in?” Lisa asked. “Is this is all considered the same care, is it considered different care? We don't know.”

RELATED: A ban on gender-affirming care for kids has yet to take effect. Some say it's already causing harm

Lisa opposes the boards’ efforts to restrict care, but hopes to at least get some clarity at the upcoming hearing. She said confusion about the proposals has caused a lot of stress for her and her daughter, and she believes the boards’ decisions are politically motivated.

“It’s clear it’s not about the health and safety of children but about punishing ‘others,’” said Lisa, with “others” meaning transgender residents.

Doctors who treat young patients with gender dysphoria, or the distress a person feels when their body doesn't align with their identity, say social support and hormones can offer many benefits, including reduced anxiety and depression. A recent study found the vast majority of kids who receive gender-affirming care stick with it. Medical organizations including the American Academy of Pediatrics and Endocrine Society support providing access to gender-affirming treatments for trans youth.

Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo recommends against these treatments for minors and urged state medical boards to implement these restrictions. Researchers have gone on to say Ladapo and other state officials misrepresented data about gender-affirming care.

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

While both medical boards agreed to limit how doctors can treat gender dysphoria in children, their proposals are not the same. Families and advocates for transgender youth are also watching to see whether changes are made to a research exemption only one board included in its proposal.

The Florida Board of Osteopathic Medicine agreed last fall to advance rule language that would allow new patients to access treatments through clinical trials at Florida medical schools. The Board of Medicine was expected to include the same exemption, but members voted to remove it from their proposal during the last joint meeting.

It's unclear whether the boards will tweak their proposals to be more in line with one another or continue to move forward with two different standards of care. The Board of Medicine regulates medical doctors, or MDs, while the Board of Osteopathic Medicine regulates doctors of osteopathic medicine, or DOs.

Members of both boards have stressed they are non-partisan throughout the proceedings, though some have admitted to donating money to Gov. Ron DeSantis' campaigns in the past.

DeSantis has appointed several new members to each board since they approved the language for these proposals in November.

How to attend and share feedback

Members of the public can attend the joint hearing on Friday, Feb. 10 at 1:00 p.m. According to a notice the boards posted on Jan. 9, the meeting should end no later than 5:00 p.m.

It will be held in the Department of Transportation Auditorium, Burns Building, 605 Suwannee Street, Tallahassee, Florida 32399.

Speakers will be given three minutes to voice their opinions on the rules and ask questions.

Those who cannot attend can still share written feedback ahead of the meeting. Public comments may be submitted to the Boards until 5:00 p.m. on Feb. 7. The email address is BOMPublicComment@flhealth.gov.

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Stephanie Colombini joined WUSF Public Media in December 2016 as Producer of Florida Matters, WUSF’s public affairs show. She’s also a reporter for WUSF’s Health News Florida project.