DeSantis’s Next Move in War Against Trans Kids Is Banning Gender Affirming Care

Far right Gov. Ron DeSantis’s administration is moving to ban transgender youth and Medicaid recipients from accessing gender affirming care in Florida in an extreme escalation of Republicans’ war on transgender people.

On Thursday, state Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo sent a letter to the governing body that oversees doctors in Florida, requesting that it “establish a standard of care” that would implement anti-trans guidelines issued by state health officials earlier this year. The guidelines, which were nonbinding when they were first released, say that, despite the findings of major medical, psychiatric and pediatric groups, transgender children should not be able to access potentially life-saving gender affirming care — and that they should even be barred from “social” transitions like changing their hairstyles or pronouns.

On the same day, the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) issued a report arguing that Medicaid should be banned from covering trans-related health care for children and adults alike, including treatments like puberty blockers, hormone treatments and gender affirming surgeries. Both the letter and the report allow DeSantis to implement the bans quickly without the support of the state legislature.

These moves are an alarming escalation of Desantis’s attacks on transgender people in Florida — which now directly affect both children and adults’ access to health care. LGBTQ advocates say that the development makes it even more clear that actions like barring transgender children from participating in sports were never about sports, but about waging an all-out war on transgender people and their right to exist in society.

“The new right wing angle of attack is that NO trans people should have access to hormone replacement therapy because it’s ‘experimental.’ Trans people have literally taken cross-sex hormones since at least 1918,” wrote Ari Drennen, the LGBTQ program director for Media Matters for America. “Governor DeSantis’ move is illegal, dangerous and based on lies.” Drennen also pointed out that many cisgender people regularly take hormones for health reasons, but face no pushback from Republicans.

Indeed, gender affirming care is well-established within medical and psychiatric communities to be life-saving for trans people. While trans youth and adults experience high rates of depression and suicidal ideation, studies have found that gender affirming care has positive effects on trans kids’ mental health — effects that last well into adulthood.

In his letter, Ladapo politicized the issue, claiming without evidence that medical professionals who support trans people’s right to gender affirming care are only doing so based on their political preferences. Ladapo, a DeSantis appointee, is also an anti-vaxxer.

“The current standards set by numerous professional organizations appear to follow a preferred political ideology instead of the highest level of generally accepted medical science,” he wrote.

LGBTQ activists say that it’s actually the April health department guidelines, prepared in part by Ladapo, that are a nakedly partisan move; such actions only serve to advance Republicans’ culture war and to normalize denying the public their bodily autonomy — in the form of restricting gender affirming care, abortion rights, contraception access, and more.

After the guidelines were released, 300 medical professionals in Florida wrote an op-ed to express their firm opposition to the instructions, which they said were based on cherry-picked data and distorted recommendations from medical groups. “[T]he Florida Department of Health cites a selective and non-representative sample of small studies and reviews, editorials, opinion pieces and commentary to support several of their substantial claims,” they wrote in the Tampa Bay Times. “When citing high-quality studies, they make conclusions that are not supported by the authors of the articles.”