Florida Medical Board Takes Steps to Block Gender-Affirming Treatments for Minors

University of Florida professor and chief of pediatric endocrinology Michael J. Haller, who testified as an expert at the hearing, called the proposal a political stunt.

“This has been pushed to the board as a political maneuver,” Haller told board members. “Trans people have always existed, they will always exist, whether you admit it or not.”

The medical board followed guidelines from the Florida Department of Health, which claimed there is not enough research and evidence that such care is safe.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association support gender-affirming care for adults and adolescents. But medical experts said gender-affirming care for children rarely, if ever, involves surgery. Instead, doctors are more likely to recommend counseling, social transition, and hormone replacement therapy.

The proposed rule is the latest step the DeSantis administration has taken to tighten regulatory controls on gender-affirming care. The Florida Medicaid regulator is also considering a rule that would block state-subsidized health care from paying for transgender treatment.

DeSantis has publicly spoken out against menopause-related medical care. Speaking at a news conference earlier this week about opioid addiction, he said doctors who perform gender-confirming surgery should be sued and liken such treatment to castration. He also recently suspended Tampa’s Supreme Prosecutor Andrew Warren, in part because the prosecutor has expressed support for menopausal medical care.

The medical board vote on Friday begins a process to update the standard of care for gender-affirming treatments in Florida, the country’s third most populous state.

Some onlookers at Friday’s hearing became unruly and shouted obscenities at the board members. Broward County Sheriff’s officers led some onlookers outside, including one who said the ban would leave some children homeless.

Atlanta-based endocrinologist Quentin Van Meter, who also appeared before the board as an expert at the Fort Lauderdale meeting, favored banning such treatments, claiming interest in gender-affirming care was spurred on by the internet and blaming Covid-19. isolation for increased young people’s interest in transition-related medical care.

“They live the internet life,” says Van Meter. “This is a huge experiment on children from the United States. Anyone who suggests these things as a standard of care – it’s a mirage.”

An outspoken critic of gender-affirming concern, Van Meter had previously been disqualified as an expert by a Texas judge overseeing a divorce case requiring Van Meter to testify about whether a transgender youth should receive puberty blockers.

Haller told the board that Van Meter’s assessment of the internet and children locked up at home because of the pandemic was not the scientific discussion the board had originally promised.

“To say this is because of a social media contagion is absurd,” Heller said, adding later, “I suggest we stick to the subject of science.”

Haller was joined by pediatric endocrinologist Kristin Dayton of the University of Florida, who told the council that the standard of care she follows for treating gender dysphoria includes limitations based on a child’s age. Treatments, she said, are generally limited to older teens around 17 years old.

The medical board also heard more than an hour and a half of public testimony, including from Pompano Beach resident Ernie Sauve, who compared the desire to be transgender with the desire to be a different ethnicity.

“I may identify as Spanish, but that doesn’t make me Spanish,” he said.

Kaleb Hobson-Garcia, a 20-year-old Florida State University student, said he received gender-affirming care at age 12 and supported such therapies. Hobson-Garcia said his experience provided a wealth of information about such treatment.

“I urge you to think of the children like me who were frightened and found comfort in the necessary health care,” Hobson-Garcia said. “My identity is not an epidemic.”

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