In early February, a massive carpool descended on Tallahassee, Florida’s capital. Dozens of middle and high schoolers had missed Geometry and English class for the occasion; parents had taken hard earned days off work to chaperone their children. However, this was no school sanctioned event. It was the final deliberation meeting of the Florida Boards of Medicine and Osteopathic Medicine, which would determine whether the state would move forward with a ban on gender-affirming care for trans and nonbinary youth.
Although the Boards had been discussing a potential ban for months, this was the first and only chance the public would have to voice their concerns about the rule. For the young people who had traveled to Tallahassee that day, the decision would have an immeasurable impact on their lives. School would have to wait.
For three hours in a poorly-lit auditorium in the state Department of Transportation office, trans and nonbinary young people described the feelings of liberation, wholeness, and freedom they had experienced after receiving the kinds of medically necessary, gender-affirming care that was now up for debate. They described missing months of school due to dysphoria, and the friendships and self-love that blossomed when they received treatment.
“Having my needs met in this way for the first time ever was the most beautiful experience I could have asked for,” said one teenager.
“Growing up in a religious and fairly conservative household, I didn’t have the opportunity to receive gender-affirming care until I was 18. Because of that, I attempted suicide three times,” said another. “Gender-affirming care saved my life.”
Behind those who testified, dozens of heads — young people, their parents, siblings, and teachers — nodded in recognition.
Despite their testimonies, and the decades-long support of such treatment by most every governing medical body, the Board voted to move forward with a ban on gender-affirming care for youth. Although they had previously claimed that the field needed more research before hormone replacement therapy and other treatments could be approved, the Board also paradoxically banned gender-affirming care for research purposes at public universities in Florida.
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