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Federal trial opens over restrictions and ban on medical treatment for transgender adults, minors

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Federal trial opens over restrictions and ban on medical treatment for transgender adults, minors

Dec 13, 2023 | 3:30 pm ET
By Jackie Llanos
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Federal trial opens over restrictions and ban on medical treatment for transgender adults, minors
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Transgender Flag via Getty Images

In tearful testimony, the mother of an eight-year-old transgender boy said that she feared her son would be swallowed by depression if he’s forced to go through puberty without medical treatment for gender dysphoria.

The mother, using the pseudonym “Gloria Goe” was among three plaintiffs who testified during the first day of the trial over the state law and rules banning common medical treatments for transgender minors and restricting access to treatments for adults. A transgender adult and the mother of a transgender girl also shared how the law and rules from the Board of Medicine and Board of Osteopathic Medicine worsened their lives.

“The state of Florida did not birth my son; the state of Florida does not know my son. I feel utterly violated as a parent,” Gloria Goe said during her testimony.

While Goe’s son is too young to take medicine to delay the changes of puberty, she said that if her son doesn’t get treatment once that happens, he wouldn’t be able to identify as male safely.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle, presiding over the trial, granted a preliminary injunction in June, stopping enforcement of the ban for the transgender minors named in the suit. Gov. Ron DeSantis approved the law, SB 254, restricting transgender health care in May.

‘Designed to harm’

One of the plaintiffs’ lawyers, Thomas Redburn, emphasized that the restrictions and ban on care violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because they single out transgender people. Moreover, Florida is stripping the right of parents to make medical decisions for their children guaranteed under that same amendment, he said during his opening statement.

The plaintiffs are represented by the GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the Lowenstein Sandler law firm, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and Southern Legal Counsel.

The law and rules reflect the belief that “people should not be transgender” and “the fewer people who transition the better,” Redburn said, citing comments against transgender people from state lawmakers during discussions about the bill. He also pointed to restrictions on transgender people using the bathroom and pronouns that align with their gender identity.

He said all the restrictions stemmed from a “framework that is designed to harm transgender people.” The consequences of untreated gender dysphoria could include self-harm and suicide, Redburn said.

Mohammad Jazil, an attorney representing state officials including Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, said that hostility would be hard to prove because the law still allows transgender adults to receive treatment for gender dysphoria.

“The state has every right to dictate norms,” he said, referring to the changes in the standards of care from the boards. Jazil also said that transgender people could pursue treatment through means other than puberty blockers, hormone treatments, and surgery, the treatments targeted in SB 254.

Lack of treatment

For 12-year-old “Susan Doe,” experiencing male puberty would be the single most devastating event of her life, her mother, “Jane Doe,” said during her testimony. Susan began showing signs that she identified as a girl at three years old.

The mother cried as she explained her feelings when SB 254 became law: “I didn’t know how to explain to her that there were people in this world who would do this to her.”

Since Susan’s father is in the military, her family would be separated if she had to move out of Florida to receive care, Jane Doe said.

Lucien Hamel, one of the adult plaintiffs, spoke about his own inability to move out of the state because of his family. He began testosterone treatments in 2019 and got surgery to treat his gender dysphoria, but he hasn’t been able to get a testosterone prescription since June because of SB 254, he said during his testimony.

Under the restrictions, a transgender adult such as Hamel can only receive treatment in person from a physician. Before, nurse practitioners could provide that care, as was the case for Spektrum Health, the Orlando clinic Hamel attended and which had to pause hormone treatments after the law went into effect. Continuing treatment would require him to complete consent forms the plaintiffs’ attorneys claim are misleading and riddled with falsehoods.

Hinkle didn’t side with the adult plaintiffs in a preliminary injunction asking him to stop enforcement of the law. In that September decision, Hinkle wrote that the adult plaintiffs hadn’t established that they’d suffer unduly if the law continued to be enforced.

The months Hamel has gone without testosterone have wiped away the years of progress he had accomplished, he said. People don’t know he is transgender in his work and he doesn’t know the kind of backlash he would have to face, he said.

Ultimately, he stays in Florida because of his son, he said. If he left Florida, he wouldn’t be able to see his son every other week or he would have to uproot his son’s life.

“I couldn’t do that to my son,” he said.

The trial is scheduled to continue on Thursday and resume next Wednesday through Friday but the attorneys estimated they would only need two more days.