On Nov. 4, only four days before the decisive midterm elections, the Florida Boards of Medicine successfully pushed a vote to restrict gender-affirming health care for transgender youth. The decision’s new rules, which still must go through a multiple weeks long public comment period, would ban transgender children from receiving puberty blockers, hormones and gender-affirming surgeries.
The vote is the latest attack on the trans community in Florida, following the passage of the anti-trans sports ban last year, the widely-opposed “Don’t Say Gay” law earlier this year, and the banning of Medicaid to cover trans-related care in August.
“We know that this vote is part of the governor’s agenda to silence and attack the LBGTQ+ community, especially trans kids. Gender-affirming care is life-saving care for trans youth, there is overwhelming evidence, yet [the Boards] completely ignore us,” said Salvatore Vierira, the volunteer program manager of Equality Florida.
While arguing that there is not enough research on gender-affirming care, the Board of Medicine voted to remove clinical trial provisions, however the Board of Osteopathic Medicine voted to retain them. Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine will be able to provide gender-affirming care in the name of research, while Doctors of Medicine will not.
The board’s decision goes against what is widely accepted by doctors, mental health specialists and medical groups like the American Medical Association and American Academy of Pediatrics. Gender-affirming care is supported as both appropriate and medically necessary in alleviating emotional and psychological distress, including dramatically reducing the risk of suicide.
“These board members just want to further their hateful political agenda. They’re just blatantly ignoring medical facts,” said 21-year-old Mack Brueggemann, a trans man. The Florida Board of Medicine members have collectively contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to right-wing Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
The move to ban trans care through the Board of Medicine circumvents the process of passing things through the elected state legislature. This is in line with DeSantis’ assaults on democracy, from removing twice-elected State Attorney Andrew Warren to arresting people for voting.
The meeting, which took place in the middle of a workday, was packed with over 200 working-class Floridians from the LGBTQ community and their allies holding signs that read “Protect Trans Kids” and “Florida Board of Medicine Stop Campaigning for DeSantis.”
Many attendees likened DeSantis’ attack on trans people to Nazi Germany, including Tampa Bay-based activist Kimberly Cox during public comment, who is the mother of a nonbinary teenager. Cox was promptly kicked out of the meeting by security for her comment, but not before the room erupted in applause in support of her.
Despite the vast majority of attendees being opposed to the ban, the Board required equal representation of those opposed and those in support, alternating those giving public comment.
After they ran out of those speaking in support of the ban, which was only eight people, many who do not live in Florida, they cut public comment. Those who opposed the ban swiftly broke out into chants of “We will not be silenced, Stonewall was a riot!” while large signs were brought out displaying the campaign contributions of each board member to Governor Desantis.
In an interview with Liberation News after the meeting, state representative Anna Eskamani, the only elected official in attendance, said that yesterday’s vote was “essentially the state of Florida trying to commit genocide on trans people and erase trans lives.”
“It is not in an isolated fashion, either,” she went on, “This is an effort to control marginalized people which is an effort of those in power to stay in power. Whether it’s attacking trans lives or making it harder to vote, going after abortion rights, it’s all to maintain power. But as you saw today the crowd opposing the ban was multiracial, multigender, multigenerational. We are diverse and we must continue to stand united.”
All over the country we are seeing these volatile attacks on the trans community, women, Black people and democracy at large. The social gains that were made from the people’s movements of the 1960s and 1970s represent a threat to the total domination of society by capital.
But people are not going to take these attacks without a fight. Desantis’ fascist agenda is deeply unpopular. These attacks are bringing people into political action. Working-class people are ready to rally behind the trans community and their freedom struggle. Floridians will continue to build a movement against racism, sexism, homophobia, and fascism, and continue to build towards liberation.