I am the parent of a transgender child. What about my parental rights?

Florida Statute 1014 reads: "The Legislature finds that it is a fundamental right of parents to direct the upbringing, education, and care of their minor children." If HB 1421 and SB 254 pass into law, the state needs to update its language to say: "The Legislature finds that it is a fundamental right of some parents to direct the upbringing, education, and care of their minor children."

Sound familiar? Do you remember reading George Orwell's satirical novella "Animal Farm"? I do. I vividly recollect that the pigs on Manor Farm transformed the original tenet "All Animals are Equal" into "But Some Animals are More Equal than Others." What I never imagined, however, is that my family might be the subject of a similar dystopian nightmare.

I am the parent of a transgender child. I should have the fundamental right to determine what is in the best interests of my child's health and education. These legislations that would ban gender-affirming medical care for minors and put conditions on medical care for adults – and bills that would expand legislation related to educational institutions and instruction requirements – will all have the same impact. They undermine my parental authority.

University of Florida students rally to support transgender youth on Feb. 23, 2023.
University of Florida students rally to support transgender youth on Feb. 23, 2023.

Florida bills would lead to 'nightmare' scenarios

My family and no family I know has ever made a medical decision regarding their transgender child without consulting a team of physicians. Having gender dysphoria is not being "confused." It is a condition where a person's feelings about their body are out of alignment with the physical traits of their body. For some (but not all), gender dysphoria creates extreme distress.

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Decades of data on puberty blockers tell us that this is a safe medication to temporarily pause puberty. As transgender children become adolescents, gradually taking gender-affirming hormones is only done as an informed decision for them and their parents. HB 1421 and SB 254 undermine a parent's fundamental right to make medical decisions for their child in consultation with their physicians.

Other legislations fill me with equal dread.

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HB 1403/SB 1580 would establish a health care provider's right to a "conscience-based objection" to providing services to a patient. Imagine sitting in a hospital gown and a nurse or doctor comes in, looks at you and decides they aren't treating you because you are transgender. Terrifying and humiliating at the same time.

HB 1223/HB 1069/SB 1320 would result in a different nightmare scenario.

Imagine sitting in a classroom and everyone knows you as Sally. And then this bill passes, and the teacher calls you James. Everyone laughs. Then the kids in the class begin to taunt you. What does the teacher do? Nothing. Why? Because, in Florida, it will be OK for a teacher and peers to intentionally misgender someone, which by its very nature is belittling.

The Florida Constitution makes it a duty of the state to provide all children with "a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools." These bills would undermine every transgender child's constitutional right to feel safe and secure at school.

Jennifer Koslow
Jennifer Koslow

There have always been and always will be transgender people, including children. Aren’t decisions about their individualized care best made by their parents? Why is the state looking to make some parents second-class citizens when it comes to parental rights? I urge you to contact your state legislators and ask them to vote no on these bills.

Jennifer Koslow is a citizen of Florida and a parent. This column first published at the Tallahassee Democrat.

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This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: My kid is trans. Banning gender-affirming care ignores parental rights