Judge struck down Florida ban on gender-affirming care for trans kids. It's the right move.

A Florida judge shut down transphobes this week in his ruling that struck down parts of a law that restricted trans health care for both youth and adults.

The law was passed by the Florida Legislature last year and prohibited doctors and nurses from prescribing gender-affirming care like puberty blockers to anyone under 18.

It also regulated health care for trans adults by requiring adults to meet with a physician in person before starting treatment. The part of the law that bans youth from undergoing gender-affirming surgery is still in effect.

“Transgender opponents are of course free to hold their beliefs,” Judge Robert Hinkle wrote in the decision. “But they are not free to discriminate against transgender individuals just for being transgender. In time, discrimination against transgender individuals will diminish, just as racism and misogyny have diminished.”

Flags representing LGBTQ+ and transgender communities
Flags representing LGBTQ+ and transgender communities

For trans people and the folks who love them, this is an important step in combating the increase in anti-trans legislation we see across the country, and it will hopefully help reverse the stigma that has bubbled up alongside these bills.

Hinkle’s ruling and words of affirmation for the trans community are a step in the right direction, even if I know the fight for trans rights in the United States is far from over.

Anti-trans laws have shown up across the country

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signs SB 254 into law in May 2023. The law restricts access to gender-affirming care for people under 18 and implemented more hurdles for adults.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signs SB 254 into law in May 2023. The law restricts access to gender-affirming care for people under 18 and implemented more hurdles for adults.

Last year, Florida banned gender-affirming health care for people under 18 and implemented more hurdles for adults who sought it out, like mandating in-person consultations and prohibiting medical professionals like nurse practitioners from administering gender-affirming care.

The stricken law is part of a larger trend to legislate transness. In 2023, there were nearly three times as many anti-trans bills filed as in 2022. This year, 37 anti-trans bills have become law in various states.

The existence of anti-trans legislation across the country stigmatizes gender diversity and leads to bullying. A 2021 Trevor Project survey found that 61% of transgender and nonbinary youth experienced higher rates of bullying than their cisgender peers.

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At its most extreme, this bullying can be violent. Earlier this year, 16-year-old Oklahoman Nex Benedict died by suicide after a fight in the school bathroom, bringing widespread attention to the bullying of trans children and its effect on their mental health. In May, a trans Minnesota teen was allegedly attacked outside her school bathroom, resulting in a broken jaw.

It's hard not to see the way laws like the one struck down in Florida can add to the stigma trans people face, as well as convince cis people that transness is a threat to their way of life.

Trans people deserve to feel comfortable in their bodies

The majority of the population feels comfortable existing as the gender they were assigned at birth. For about 1.6% of U.S. adults – including 5% of those ages 18-29 – the sex they were assigned at birth doesn’t match their gender.

Cisgender people, those whose gender aligns with the one they were assigned at birth, do not know what it’s like to be transgender or experience gender dysphoria. Despite this lack of experience, there are a lot of conservatives who want to control trans bodies.

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This law didn’t just affect children – it affected adults who sought treatment for their gender dysphoria, also known as gender-affirming care. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has fearmongered about this practice, including comments likening puberty blockers prescribed to trans youth as chemical castration. It’s an ignorant way of viewing health care that shows he has likely never asked an actual trans person about their transition.

The right’s argument that it’s too easy for youth to access gender-affirming care is baseless – something that opponents would know if they actually spoke to trans people about their experiences.

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It’s also not something that people reportedly regret. In fact, a study published in The Lancet found that 98% of youth who began gender-affirming care before they were 18 continued this care in adulthood.

As for surgeries, only about 1% of trans people who undergo gender-affirming surgery say they regret it.

Most importantly, this is something that should be left to trans individuals, their families, and their doctors.

Fight for trans rights is far from over

Despite what DeSantis and other conservative lawmakers may tell you, trans people have existed throughout history and will continue to exist despite legislation that tries to tell us otherwise. If anything, the increased visibility of transgender people in recent years is a direct result of increased social acceptance of trans identities.

DeSantis' team told The New York Times they would appeal the ruling, adding that "history will look back on this fad in horror." Apparently, the governor hasn't done his research.

I’d like to think that trans liberation is on the horizon; I’m also aware that there are politicians who would rather use a marginalized group to score political points instead of letting them exist.

Making it easier for youth and adults to transition helps this progress – it means there will be more openly trans people who are allowed to share their stories, and more people will be exposed to gender diversity.

I agree with Judge Hinkle: I think there will come a time when the United States widely views transphobia as morally reprehensible, the way we view homophobia, racism and misogyny are treated. I just worry about how long it will actually take.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Florida trans care law ruling offers hope amid endless GOP attacks