Florida bans gender dysphoria treatments on minors, restricts student pronoun usage

'Let kids be kids,' Gov. Ron DeSantis says of controversial bill outlawing 'mutilation of minors'
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a news conference at Cambridge Christian School in Tampa on May 17, 2023.jpg
Posted at 11:18 AM, May 17, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-17 23:17:51-04

TAMPA, Fla. — Let kids be kids.

That was the firm message from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday as he signed a slew of controversial bills restricting pronoun usage among students in Florida schools, banning gender dysphoria treatments on minors, and further limiting LGBTQ+ instruction in classrooms.

Speaking at the Cambridge Christian School in Tampa, DeSantis first addressed SB 254, which goes into effect immediately and makes it a felony for medical providers to prescribe hormone therapies, puberty blockers, and surgery to underage patients in Florida.

"We need to let our kids just be kids. And we have a very crazy age that we live in. There's a lot of nonsense that gets floated around," DeSantis said. "What we've said in Florida is we are gonna remain a refuge of sanity and a citadel in normalcy. And kids should have an upbringing that reflects that."

WATCH: Florida's governor holds news conference in Tampa

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis holds news conference in Tampa

The law takes aim at gender dysphoria, which is defined by the federal government as "significant distress that a person may feel when sex or gender assigned at birth is not the same as their identity."

DeSantis said an "ideologically charged small group of folks within medicine" are pushing these procedures on minors.

"They're trying to do sex change operations on minors, giving them things like puberty blockers, and doing things that are irreversible to them," DeSantis said.

Later Wednesday, three Florida parents asked a federal court to issue a temporary restraining order immediately blocking enforcement of SB 254. Advocates for the families will be in court Friday to argue motions to temporarily block Boards of Medicine rules and health care ban provisions so that they can get their children medical care.

The governor on Wednesday also signed HB 1069 into law, which expands last year's controversial "Parental Rights In Education" measure, referred to by critics as the "Don't Say Gay" law.

Starting on July 1, the law prevents employees and students in K-12 Florida schools from having to refer to another person by their "preferred personal title or pronouns if such personal title or pronouns do not correspond to that person's sex."

"Crucially, this bill makes sure that Florida students and teachers will never be forced to declare pronouns in school or be forced to used pronouns not based on biological sex," DeSantis said.

The law also bans classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in prekindergarten through eighth grade. That type of instruction in grades 9-12 must be "age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards."

The governor on Wednesday also put his signature on SB 1438, which takes effect immediately and prohibits businesses from admitting children to "adult live performance" shows.

"If you are an establishment that's having adult performances, you have an obligation to make sure that these young kids are not permitted in the premises," DeSantis said.

The newly passed laws quickly drew the ire of Equality Florida, which called this the "largest slate of anti-LGBTQ bills in one legislative session in the state’s history."

"This is an all out attack on freedom," Joe Saunders, the senior political director of Equality Florida, said in a written statement. "Free states don’t strip parents of the right to make healthcare decisions for their children. Free states don’t ban books, censor curriculum, or muzzle free speech. DeSantis doesn’t see freedom as a value worth defending, he sees it as a campaign slogan in his bid for the White House. And he is setting freedom -- and Florida’s reputation -- ablaze in his desperation to win the GOP nomination. The nation should be on high alert. We are all Floridians as DeSantis seeks to export this blueprint of authoritarianism to the rest of the country."

During Florida's recent legislative session, lawmakers were fiercely divided on the issue of gender dysphoria treatments, with Democrats and Republicans sparring over the provisions of SB 254 and the policy's overall goal.

"No one deserves to have essential medical care taken away from them," Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, said.

"This is a mental condition," Rep. Dr. Ralph Massullo, R-Inverness, said. "This is not a physical condition."

At least 30 different medical organizations have offered supportive statements on gender-affirming care, with many considering it beneficial and saying it rarely includes surgery.

"This community is being targeted," Rep. Kelly Skidmore, D-Delray Beach, said. "They need our protection. We need to be their voice."

According to a June 2022 report from the Williams Institute, an estimated 16,000 Florida teens — or about 1.32% of teens between the ages of 13 and 17 — identify as transgender.