Florida's Department of Health on Wednesday released guidance that said puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones should not be used to treat gender dysphoria in children, contesting claims made by the Biden administration.
The guidance was issued amid intense national debate over the best treatment for children who identify as transgender. A controversial law recently enacted in Alabama made it a felony to prescribe or administer puberty blockers or cross-sex hormones to individuals younger than 19 and has been challenged in court. In Texas, a judge has blocked an order by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott that equated such treatments with "child abuse" and ordered state agencies to investigate providers of transgender medical care as criminals.
In a statement on "Transgender Day of Visibility," President Joe Biden attacked "the onslaught of anti-transgender state laws" and told parents that "affirming your child's identity is one of the most powerful things you can do to keep them safe."
The clinical definition of gender dysphoria is "significant distress that a person may feel when sex or gender assigned at birth is not the same as their identity.”
Florida's DOH said Wednesday that "current evidence does not support the use of puberty blockers, hormone treatments or surgical procedures for children and adolescents” experiencing gender dysphoria. A news release from the agency cited a study from the International Review of Psychiatry that found 80% of those who identify as transgender and seek clinical care will lose their desire to identify with their non-birth sex.
The department also pointed out that puberty is important for brain development and that scientific evidence suggests the part of the brain responsible for decision-making is not fully developed until age 25. Further, "potentially irreversible consequences such as cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, infertility, increased cancer risk, and thrombosis" are known side effects of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormone doses, DOH said.
The guidance states that social gender transition, prescribed puberty blockers or cross-sex hormones, and gender reassignment surgery have "an unacceptably high risk of doing harm" to minors.
Florida's guidance contradicts federal guidance and the opinions of doctors and psychologists in major medical groups.
The Biden administration endorsed sex-change surgeries and cross-sex hormone substitutions for gender-dysphoric minors in a series of documents released last month in response to actions by Republican-controlled state governments. HHS asserted that "gender-affirming care" is the "standard of care for transgender, gender diverse, and intersex youth" that is approved by "major medical associations," including the American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, and American Academy of Pediatrics.
The Florida DOH released a fact sheet challenging claims made by HHS.
Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo accused the federal government's recommendations of "failing at the most basic level of academic rigor."
"The federal government's medical establishment releasing guidance failing at the most basic level of academic rigor shows that this was never about health care," he said in a statement. "It was about injecting political ideology into the health of our children. Children experiencing gender dysphoria should be supported by family and seek counseling, not pushed into an irreversible decision before they reach 18."
Reacting to the guidelines, the LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Florida issued a statement accusing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' administration of seeking "to replace science and the safety of young people with political propaganda."
“The Florida Department of Health has released non-binding guidance opposing science-backed health care resources for parents of transgender children,” the group said. “This guidance demonizes life-saving, medically necessary care and asserts that the government, not parents, knows best when it comes to health care for our children. And, once again, DeSantis wants the government to intrude into doctors’ offices to pander to extremists in service to his political ambitions.”
Jeremy Redfern, the press secretary for the Florida Department of Health, urged critics of the guidelines on Twitter to "Try reading the evidence and fact check."