The rights of LGBTQ+ people are being consistently challenged by Republicans across the country. It seems that the issues of gender-affirming care, “saying gay” and whether the public is mature enough to witness drag have become some of the biggest issues facing politicians in their respective capitals, with Florida at the forefront of bills on such topics. Notably creating the original “Don’t Say Gay Bill,” the DeSantis administration has been a leader for conservatives around the country enforcing limitations around LGBTQ+ people.
Most recently, the Florida Board of Medicine has finalized their decision to ban gender-affirming care for any new patients under the age of 18. This ban includes Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), puberty blockers and surgical procedures. For existing patients, the rule’s language is incredibly vague and there is uncertainty over being able to continue care. Florida is one of many states that has issued a form of gender-affirming care ban—however, it’s the only one to do so not through legislative action, but through its unelected medicine board.
In addition to the medical board ban, Florida House legislators proposed on Mar. 3 a legislative ban on gender-affirming care for minors in the form of House Bill(HB) 1421. Specifically, the bill bans “gender clinical interventions for minors.” “Gender clinical interventions” is defined as any sex-change surgeries, hormones and puberty blockers. The bill also explicitly bans health insurance providers from covering such care for minors, and would require the state to revoke a physician’s license if they were found to be giving this care to minors. However, the bill has one exception: if the patient is confirmed to have non-standard sex chromosomes or ambiguous reproductive organs—in other words, the patient is intersex—then gender clinical intervention is permitted.
HB 1421 also prohibits a Florida resident’s birth certificate gender marker from being altered. It is unclear whether this applies to all residents or only minors.
In addition to HB 1421, the Florida Senate also proposed Senate Bill (SB) 254 on Mar. 3, which would give the state authority to take custody of a child if they are at risk of receiving any sort of gender clinical intervention. This would also allow other adults who know the child to petition the state for custody if they see the child receiving gender-affirming care. This would mean that trans children with supportive parents would be at extreme risk of being taken from their parents either by the state or another adult.
While legislation has been targeting transgender youth and their families, college students across Florida—including at New College—recently held walk-outs in protest of DeSantis requesting on Jan. 11 that public colleges across the state provide medical information relating to students seeking gender-affirming care. This information was due Feb. 10. Insider confirmed that six of the 12 public institutions in the State University System (SUS) have complied with the request: University of Florida (UF), Florida State University (FSU), University of Central Florida (UCF), Florida A&M University (FAMU), Florida International University (FIU) and the University of North Florida (UNF). The walk-outs were also held in solidarity with New College of Florida and stood in support of educational freedom and generally against Republican policies.
The Florida House also has filed HB 1223 on Feb. 28, which would prohibit “classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity from occurring in prekindergarten through grade 8, rather than kindergarten through grade 3.” This is an expansion of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill that drastically changes who can learn about sexual orientation or gender identity, and includes charter schools as well as public ones. The bill additionally revises that no one working in public K-12 education can refer to themselves or others by a title or pronoun which does not reflect their birth sex.
Continuing the onslaught of bills, the Florida Senate introduced SB 1674 on Mar. 3, which would make using the bathroom designated for the opposite sex a misdemeanor of the second degree.
On Feb. 20, the Florida Senate introduced the “Reverse Woke Act,” which would require an employer that covers any gender dysphoria treatment to also cover “the total costs associated with treatment that reverses the gender dysphoria treatment, regardless of the rate of coverage provided for the initial treatment.” There is no clear time limit for when an employee is able to request this reversal be covered, and employees who are denied this coverage are able to file a suit against the employer.
“We don’t do this for any other surgery,” independent transgender advocate Erin Reed said in an interview with the Catalyst. “They are trying to systematically eliminate transgender healthcare, transgender expression and freedom to be yourself.”
Reed was particularly worried about Florida HB 991, which changes the definition and regulations around defamation cases.
HB991, filed Feb. 21, would require someone claiming discriminatory actions based on race, sexual orientation or gender to prove that specific actions took place, rather than simply inflammatory speech. Claiming that a person discriminated against someone only through speech, without any action taking place, would open up the possibility for a civil suit for the person who was allegedly discriminatory.
For Reed, if this passes, it could mean her work of covering anti-trans legislation across the country could be halted in Florida particularly.
She explained that if she were to claim that a person in Florida is transphobic, even as someone who lives in a different state, they could come back and sue her for defamation.
“Seek out your local queer community,” Reed said, speaking directly to transgender people in Florida. “The one thing we have as a community is a long history of resilience, through solidarity and community, being with one another, forming social groups, engaging with our LGBTQ+ peers, and we will outlast any politician.”