Rule banning gender-affirming care for trans youth goes into effect in Florida

A rule banning gender-affirming care for most transgender minors in Florida went into effect Thursday, four months after the state’s board of medicine voted in favor of the controversial move despite opposition from most major medical associations in the U.S.

In December, members of the Florida Board of Medicine and the state Board of Osteopathic Medicine voted at a joint meeting in Lake Buena Vista to drastically limit the treatment of gender dysphoria in minors.

The rule bans trans youth from using puberty blockers, hormone replacement therapy and surgical interventions — the latter of which are extremely rare — with an exception for young people who are already receiving the treatment. Doctors who provide such care could be fined and/or lose their medical licenses.

The move marked the first time a state medical board has used its power to enact such a ban, though state Republicans in both chambers have already moved to make providing gender-affirming for trans youth a felony.

The new rule also bans trans medical care for youth for research purposes, a move described by Dr. Jonah DeChants, a research scientist with The Trevor Project, as a “giant anti-science step backward.”

“The Florida Board of Medicine has called to prohibit any further research on this best-practice medical care,” DeChants told the Daily News in an email. “We know from previous research that trans medical care is associated with positive mental health outcomes for trans and nonbinary youth — including lowering suicide risk.”

A 2021 peer-reviewed study by The Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ youth, found that gender-affirming hormone therapy for people under the age of 18 was associated with nearly 40% lower odds of recent depression and of a past-year suicide attempt.

On Thursday, a group of Florida parents announced they were challenging the ban in court.

A Florida mother, who’s joining the lawsuit on behalf of her 14-year-old son, said having to worry about the lack of access to medical treatment for her child is “every parent’s nightmare.”

“The cruel and unnecessary actions taken by the Florida Board of Medicine harm transgender children in Florida and strip parents like myself of our right to ensure our children receive appropriate, evidence-based medical care,” she said.

Many states with Republican majorities in their legislatures have adopted similar bans this year, including Mississippi, Tennessee, Utah and South Dakota, whose governors have already signed such measures into law.