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Florida Department of Health issues guidance on gender-affirming care for children

Pride Parade Georgia
Posted at 10:01 AM, Apr 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-20 18:21:50-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The Florida Department of Health (FDOH) released guidance Wednesday regarding gender-affirming care for children.

The Department's guidelines are:

  • Social gender transition should not be a treatment option for children or adolescents. 
  • Anyone under 18 should not be prescribed puberty blockers or hormone therapy. 
  • Gender reassignment surgery should not be a treatment option for children or adolescents. 
  • Children and adolescents should be provided social support by peers and family and seek counseling from a licensed provider.

"The federal government's medical establishment releasing guidance failing at the most basic level of academic rigor shows that this was never about health care," said State Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo in a statement. "It was about injecting political ideology into the health of our children. Children experiencing gender dysphoria should be supported by family and seek counseling, not pushed into an irreversible decision before they reach 18."

The FDOH said the guidelines do not apply in cases of genetically or biochemically verified disorders of sex development.

FDOH said, "crafted this guidance using published and peer-reviewed data that calls into question the motives of the federal HHS. Guidance of this magnitude requires a full, diligent understanding of the scientific evidence."

FDOH also said in a tweet it was "pushing back" against the "unscientific shift in the treatment of gender dysphoria for children and adolescents" released by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

FDOH referenced this fact sheet released by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health which states, "for transgender and nonbinary children and adolescents, early gender-affirming care is crucial to overall health and well-being as it allows the child or adolescent to focus on social transitions and can increase their confidence while navigating the healthcare system."

The sheet breaks down gender-affirming care as follows.

Gender-Affirming Care chat HHS.png

“Gender dysphoria is a diagnosis," Cypress Wellness Center's Abby Maher said. "Really, what it speaks to is just the distress that an individual can feel if their gender identity does not match the gender they were assigned at birth.”

Maher is a nationally certified counselor who's worked with children who've dealt with gender dysphoria.

“First and foremost, it’s just letting them know that they’re supported and that they have a safe place to talk through those things and also empathizing with the fact that it can be really confusing and it can be hard when you start recognizing something’s just not quite right or not feel right or you’re feeling distressed because your gender doesn’t match what you’ve been told your gender is," Maher said.

She also explained what it's like to access gender-affirming care.

“I think sometimes there’s a misunderstanding that it’s just easy for them to access gender-affirming care. It’s really not," said Maher. "If it’s a child or adolescent, they have to be seen by a mental health professional, have rigorous assessments. They have to see an endocrinologist. They have a whole team of medical doctors. There is a whole process that goes into getting these children gender-affirming care for that reason to make sure that this is the right step forward for them and to mitigate the risk of them changing their mind later.”

Last month, in a press release the HHS Office for Civil Rights said, "The Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) stands with transgender and gender-nonconforming youth and their families—and the significant majority of expert medical associations—in unequivocally stating that gender-affirming care for minors, when medically appropriate and necessary, improves their physical and mental health."

The release went on to say that, "attempts to restrict, challenge, or falsely characterize this potentially lifesaving care as abuse is dangerous. Such attempts block parents from making critical health care decisions for their children, create a chilling effect on health care providers who are necessary to provide care for these youth, and ultimately negatively impact the health and well-being of transgender and gender-nonconforming youth."

Read the full release below.

Andrew Lent, Equality Florida's Healthcare Equity Trainer, explains trans children are at a higher risk for anxiety, suicide, and depression, saying their position is this should be a choice between doctors, youth, and their families.

“Trans children are children. They’re like all other members of the LGBTQ community," Lent said. "They’re like all other children. They just want to be loved. They want to be affirmed for who they are, and just like all of us, we have a right to competent care. Trans children should have a right to competent care and privacy and parental support.”

Equality Florida released the following statement after the Florida Department of Health released its latest guidance.

"Once again, the DeSantis Administration seeks to replace science and the safety of young people with political propaganda. The Florida Department of Health has released non-binding guidance opposing science-backed health care resources for parents of transgender children. This guidance demonizes life-saving, medically-necessary care, and asserts that the government, not parents, knows best when it comes to health care for our children. And, once again, DeSantis wants the government to intrude into doctors’ offices to pander to extremists in service to his political ambitions. Parents should be deciding, in partnership with their child’s doctor, based on science, not politics, what is best for their children. Governor DeSantis’ runaway agenda of banning books, muzzling teachers, censoring history, and pushing government control is putting a handful of extremists in charge of every aspect of the lives of Floridians and is making the state less safe for LGBTQ families, especially transgender children."

The ACLU of Florida responded to the change in a statement that read:

"This non-binding guidance is in direct opposition to advice from every major medical organization in the country. Across the country and in Florida, lawmakers have enacted sweeping attacks on transgender people — particularly transgender youth. Just a few weeks ago, the governor signed a bill into law that would erase LGBTQ+ issues, families, and youth from classroom discussions. Now, the Florida Department of Health is attempting to demonize life-saving, critical, medically-necessary healthcare for transgender youth. It is simply despicable and wrong.

“Care providers, doctors, and science have been clear that gender-affirming care is safe, effective, and evidence-based, and that it’s literally lifesaving. While this guidance is non-binding and currently not enforceable, we know that the impact will stoke fear among transgender youth, their parents, and their health care providers.

“Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Department of Health are spewing dangerous political propaganda at the expense of youth and their families. Parents and youth, in consultation with doctors they trust, should make decisions about their healthcare, not the government. The governor is once again attempting to distract Floridians from the real challenges we face because he has failed to advance solutions for so many of them.

“Transgender youth have a constitutional and moral right to the same opportunities afforded to their peers. We stand by ready to do everything in our power to defend these fundamental rights of trans youth and their families.”
ACLU of Florida