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Florida issues guidance on gender-affirming care for youth

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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery should not be treatment options for children and adolescents in Florida, the state’s Department of Health said.

The health department on Wednesday issued its own guidance on gender-affirming care for children and adolescents.

The guidance states:

  • 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 LQBTQ community calls the new guidance a devastation for trans kids and teens.

“It’s not a small thing to support your child and say, ‘look this is what’s happening in our state, it’s scary and I’m sorry, but I love you and I firm you and I support you for who you are,'” said Abby Maher, president-elect of the Florida Association of LGBTQIA+ Issues and Counseling.

Maher said the guidance will leave transgender youths to suffer in silence.

“If we don’t allow transgender youth or non-binary youth transition they have significant higher risk of depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders and most commonly unfortunately suicidal ideation or suicide intents,” she said.

This marks the latest restriction against Florida’s transgender community. A law signed last year requires female student athletes to prove they were born female. Then there’s the recently signed parental rights in education law, which bans classroom instruction of gender identity in kindergarten through third grade.

“I think it’s in the same political round as trying to honestly restrict care for a community that’s already marginalized already discriminated against just push that further against them,” said Maher.

Maher said she and other counselors are in fear and confused as to what this new guidance means if they provide treatment that’s not in line with the state.

The guidance does not apply to children who were born with a genetic or biochemically verifiable disorder of sex development (DSD), the department said.

The move is in response to a fact sheet about the treatments on the United States Department of Health and Human Service’s website.

The fact sheet notes that nonbinary and transgender children face significant health disparities compared to their cisgender peers, and are at an increased risk for mental health issues, substance abuse and suicide.

“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 fact sheet says. “Medical and psychosocial gender affirming healthcare practices have been demonstrated to yield lower rates of adverse mental health outcomes, build self-esteem, and improve overall quality of life for transgender and gender diverse youth.”

Equality Florida shared a statement reading, in part: “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.”

According to a statement from the Florida Health Department, a number of countries are reevaluating or stopping gender affirming treatments for kids due to a lack of evidence regarding their psychosocial and cognitive impact.

The health department says children are too young to choose to undergo gender transforming surgery while their brains are still developing. It cited a study that said 80% of those seeking clinical care will lose their desire to identify with the non-birth sex. It also noted potentially-irreversible consequences of gender affirming treatment, such as cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, infertility, increased cancer risk, and thrombosis.

The department said its new guidelines were consistent with the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services age requirement for surgical and non-surgical treatment.

“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. “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.”

Johns Hopkins Medicine shared a statement with News Channel 8, saying it “continues to support all children, including transgender youth who have high risks of depression, anxiety and suicide. We support the American Academy of Pediatrics statement that all children should have access to evidence-based gender-affirming care at developmentally appropriate ages in order to reduce gender dysphoria and improve mental health.”

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