State medical board ignores trans pleas, bows to DeSantis push for treatment guidelines
Wendy Peale showed up in Dania Beach Friday to give the Florida Board of Medicine a piece of her mind, on behalf of her nonbinary kid, Ren.
She wasn’t alone. Plenty of parents showed up to support their transgender and nonbinary children.
There were scores of trans and gender non-conforming youth. A transgender military veteran. Teachers, leaders, community organizers, politicians.
Despite all that, the board sided with the Florida Department of Health at the behest of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in beginning the process of writing standards of care for trans and gender-nonconforming people — a move many fear will make care even harder to access.
It’s unclear how long that process would take, but protesters made it clear they don’t have high hopes the board will be able to extricate themselves from their own biases, even if they seek more information about the positive outcomes associated with gender-affirming health care.
“They’re telling us that they realize we need care, but telling us it needs to be more strict,” said Misty Eyez, director of transgender services at SunServe, a LGBTQ+ nonprofit in Broward County where she serves 600 clients.
“That’s what is really, really disheartening,” she said.
Before the meeting got going, members of the trans and nonconforming community and supporters protested right outside. They hosted a “die-in,” draping the pastel pink, baby blue, and white trans pride flag over their bodies.
They lay under makeshift gravestones that listed their causes of death as various risk factors of trans experience, such as being taken from their families, outed, experiencing depression, and substance abuse. Multiple gravestones read ‘Denied care.’
Inside, they brought their stories to the board members and told them, in no uncertain terms, how receiving gender-affirming health care saved their lives.
They urged them not to act on a petition from the health department that they deemed politically motivated, anti-LGBTQ+, and, ultimately, transphobic. The department had asked the board to establish rules that would restrict both kids’ and adults’ access to gender-affirming health care, such as puberty blocking medication, hormone replacement therapy, and transition-related surgery.
Shirley Roseman, a licensed clinical social worker in Broward County, said the board of medicine has already been denying care for new patients.
She said she’s seen therapists in certain areas erring on the side of caution, canceling services altogether for trans youth. For the first time since she started seeing trans patients, the board recently returned letters requesting medical transition surgeries for patients over 18, she said.
“This is all before everything has even changed,” she said. “It affects both youth and adults.”
Many at the meeting were upset the board cut public comment short by an hour.
As the board moved to vote, a trans woman came up to speak and the panel cut off her microphone. Security came to escort her out and she told them not to touch her, telling them she was trans, a mother, and a provider and asked how dare they do this.
“I’m a mom. I’m a parent. I’m a provider. You do not do this to children,” the trans woman said.
One board member, Patrick Hunter, described policies out of Sweden and other countries that don’t allow gender-affirming care until 18.
Hunter freely and regularly shares “detransition” disinformation on his Twitter account from anti-trans fringe groups such as Genspect, which claims many more people detransition than is factual.
Multiple people from a group calling themselves Let Kids Be Kids spoke against gender-affirming care. Also in attendance were five members of Moms for Liberty, who said they traveled two hours to attend the meeting.
What’s at stake
Following the decision, Eyez explained the stakes.
“It is hugely vast, the success rate of somebody that has been forced to go through puberty and somebody that has been able to stunt or pause their puberty,” she said, sharing the effects male puberty had on her own body.
“I’m 6’1”. My feet are size 13 in women’s shoes. My voice gets me identified as transgender all the time.”
Eyez described the positive outcomes she’s seen in her work, explaining how her clients who have been able to use puberty blocking medication have successfully assimilated into society, passing for someone who’s cisgender. They’ve all been able to secure jobs, she said.
“But my clients who have had to go through male puberty now can’t find jobs because people are uncomfortable with them,” she said. “This board forcing people to go through male puberty is very disheartening.”
Eyez added that even if the board ultimately opts not to limit access to puberty blockers, any delay to develop new standards of care will harm kids who need these medications.
Those are kids who are already fighting to be taken seriously amid a shortage of gender-affirming physicians in the state, and who are likely struggling to navigate and afford the repeated doctor’s visits necessary to even request puberty blockers or hormone replacement therapy, she said.
“I have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars removing my body hair. I can’t change my voice — unless I fly to Korea and have $11,000 surgery. I’m always gonna be 6’1”,” she said.
“I’m not saying to alter anyone’s body as a child. I’m saying pause it. Don’t get that beard. Don’t get that male patterned baldness. Don’t get that voice. Don’t get that height.”
What’s also disheartening, Eyez said, is not even that the board cut public comment short, but that its members were more willing to listen to guidelines from other countries than anecdotal evidence from trans and non-binary people in the very state they practice in.