TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The Florida Department of Health (FDOH) rebuffed recent federal guidance regarding the treatment of gender dysphoria for children and adolescents.
Gender dysphoria is defined by the Mayo Clinic as "the feeling of discomfort or distress that might occur in people whose gender identity differs from their sex assigned at birth or sex-related physical characteristics."
In a statement released Wednesday, the FDOH said the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services' recent stance on the issue was an "unscientific shift."
The federal government said in March that parents who believe their child has been denied health care, including gender-affirming care, on the basis of that child's gender identity, may file a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights.
Federal government's statement on gender dysphoria:
The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH) said recently that research demonstrates that "gender-affirming care improves the mental health and overall well-being of gender diverse children and adolescents."
"A safe and affirming healthcare environment is critical in fostering better outcomes for transgender, nonbinary, and other gender expansive children and adolescents," according to OASH. "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."
However, the FDOH refuted this policy Wednesday, saying that reviews on hormonal treatment for young people showed a "trend of low-quality evidence, small sample sizes, and medium to high risk of bias."
Citing what they called the "lack of conclusive evidence, and the potential for long-term, irreversible effects," the FDOH issued these guidelines regarding gender dysphoria:
• 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
— Based on the currently available evidence, "encouraging mastectomy, ovariectomy, uterine extirpation, penile disablement, tracheal shave, the prescription of hormones which are out of line with the genetic make-up of the child, or puberty blockers, are all clinical practices which run an unacceptably high risk of doing harm."
• Children and adolescents should be provided social support by peers and family and seek counseling from a licensed provider
Full statement by the FDOH on gender dysphoria:
Florida Department of Health Press Secretary Jeremy T. Redfern released the following statement on the new guidance:
"Guidance, by definition, is not 'enforced' by the state. It is an official statement issued by the agency to inform the public of its recommendations and the evidence that informs those recommendations.
Physicians may use guidance from different authoritative sources, including government entities and professional associations, in determining the best course of treatment for their patients. The Florida Department of Health's guidance on the treatment of gender dysphoria for children and adolescents was published to help inform healthcare providers, patients, and families about what the evidence actually supports and doesn't support."
The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida condemned the move, saying the FDOH's stance is in opposition to science-backed guidance:
"This non-binding guidance is in direct opposition to advice from every major medical organization in the country. Across the country and in Florida, lawmakers have enacted sweeping attacks on transgender people — particularly transgender youth. Just a few weeks ago, the governor signed a bill into law that would erase LGBTQ+ issues, families, and youth from classroom discussions. Now, the Florida Department of Health is attempting to demonize life-saving, critical, medically-necessary healthcare for transgender youth. It is simply despicable and wrong.
Care providers, doctors, and science have been clear that gender-affirming care is safe, effective, and evidence-based, and that it's literally lifesaving. While this guidance is non-binding and currently not enforceable, we know that the impact will stoke fear among transgender youth, their parents, and their health care providers.
Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Department of Health are spewing dangerous political propaganda at the expense of youth and their families. Parents and youth, in consultation with doctors they trust, should make decisions about their healthcare, not the government. The governor is once again attempting to distract Floridians from the real challenges we face because he has failed to advance solutions for so many of them.
Transgender youth have a constitutional and moral right to the same opportunities afforded to their peers. We stand by ready to do everything in our power to defend these fundamental rights of trans youth and their families."