The Florida Department of Health on Wednesday advised healthcare professionals against performing certain gender-affirming care treatments or helping trans minors navigate socially transitioning. Those nonenforceable guidelines break with recent guidance from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Even if the guidelines are not legally binding, they are significant: Experts told The 19th that singling out socially transitioning rather than just medically transitioning pushes Florida’s efforts to restrict gender-affirming care beyond many other states’.
The guidelines were laid out in a news release from Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida state Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo. In addition to the guidance surrounding social transitioning, they specifically recommended against offering hormone therapies and puberty blockers — both recommended by the foremost medical associations on trans health and backed by the American Medical Association — or gender-affirming surgeries, which are not recommended or typically administered for patients under 18.
Kellan Baker, executive director and chief learning officer of D.C.-based LGBTQ+ healthcare provider Whitman-Walker Institute, said the guidelines against social transitioning — using a new name, new pronouns, or changing outfits or hairstyles to better match gender expression or identity — are ultimately advising physicians to misgender trans youth and deny their identity when working with their families.
Social transitioning is often a key step for young trans people experiencing gender dysphoria, Baker said. The World Professional Association for Transgender Health recommends that families work with mental health professionals on how to best navigate a social transition for their child. Clinics like the University of Florida Health Youth Gender Program offer services to support trans youth’s medical and social transitions.
“It’s listening to the young person and doing what they need to feel safe and supported,” Baker said. Asking trans youth to be closeted when they wish to socially transition could greatly hurt their mental health and lead to kids feeling like they need to hide who they are, he said.
Brandon Wolf, press secretary for Equality Florida, said over text that the guidelines singling out social transitions are “a dangerous escalation” beyond what other states have attempted via anti-trans legislation.
“DeSantis has asserted that government not only knows better than parents and doctors what care to provide to children, but that government knows better than parents what clothes their kids should wear, what name they should be given, and what pronouns they should be referred to with,” he said.
Jeremy Redfern, press secretary for the Florida Department of Health, said in an email that the department’s guidelines are not enforced by the state. The guidelines are intended to inform healthcare practitioners, patients and families, he said.