(NewsNation) — The Florida Board of Medicine will hold a new hearing following its late-2022 decision to restrict gender-affirming care for children after the American Civil Liberties Union submitted a letter of dissent, NewsNation has learned. Sources say the hearing is expected to take place in February.
Last year, the deeply politicized issue was taken up by the state’s medical board and the Board of Osteopathic Medicine at the urging of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis. After a heated meeting in Nov. 2022, the groups jointly decided to restrict hormone therapy, puberty blockers and gender-affirming surgeries for adolescents, with the stipulation that those already receiving treatment or in clinical trials could continue.
With a 30-day window to respond, the ACLU sent a letter stating the rule changes “… serve no legitimate purpose and are harmful to minors.”
“The proposed rules run contrary to the overwhelming evidence that demonstrates the positive health impacts of gender-affirming medical care for trans youth,” the ACLU said.
Medical transitions have come under increasing scrutiny, particularly as it relates to children and teens diagnosed with gender dysphoria — in which a person feels distressed identifying as the gender assigned to them at birth — whose numbers have tripled since 2017.
An analysis by Komodo Health found that at least 121,882 children aged 6-17 were diagnosed with gender dysphoria in the five-year period between 2017 and 2021. Of those, 17,683 patients initiated puberty blockers or hormones or both during the same five-year period.
Yale School of Medicine professor Dr. Meredithe McNamara, says Florida came up with a “preordained conclusion” that was inconsistent with standard evidence and medical care.
“(Gender-affirming healthcare) should be protected and not interfered with. We’re getting it right here every day,” she told NewsNation. “In a perfect world, biased state political actors would just leave us all alone.”
But the politicization of the issue continues and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have weighed in.
“The onslaught of state laws targeting transgender Americans and their families — it’s simply wrong,” said President Joe Biden.
While a number of accredited medical groups —the American Medical Association (AMA), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Psychological Association (APA) — all support gender-affirming care for children, there has been a growing movement of medical experts who have called to pump the brakes on gender-affirming care in recent years as the stories of young detransitioners emerge.
Dr. Julia Mason is a pediatrician and member of AAP but disagrees with the group, saying her organization got “snookered” into supporting gender-affirming care. Mason is a member of the Society for Evidence Based Gender Medicine(SEGM), a group that self-describes as being “concerned about the lack of quality evidence for the use of hormonal and surgical interventions as first-line treatment for young people with gender dysphoria.”
She says although it’s “possible” that the AAP is right, her own personal experience “doesn’t line up with that,” and that the Florida Board of Medicine did its due diligence before enacting the new rules last year.
“They commissioned a systematic review of the evidence and it found that there isn’t strong support for these treatments,” Mason said. “So then they concluded these are experimental treatments and we don’t think they should be done on children.”
Increasingly, gender-affirming healthcare experts in the United States are advocating for caution and the deceleration of medical transitions for young people. The echoes of this sentiment are also being seen abroad.
Sweden and Finland, former world leaders in gender-affirming healthcare for young people, placed severe restrictions on eligibility for hormones, and instead recommend minors be given psychotherapy as a first treatment. England’s National Health Service closed its main gender clinic in Tavistock, citing the “scarce and inconclusive evidence to support clinical decision-making.”
“When I look overseas and see lots of countries with socialized medicines, so they have sort of a fiduciary interest in figuring out whether they’re spending money on the right things,” Mason said. “When I see all of those countries just putting the breaks on and taking a second look, I think that’s something we should be doing here in the United States as well.”
Marcus and Susan Evans were a husband and wife team who worked at the UK clinic that closed. They say they were alarmed at what they experienced. Marcus Evans, also a SEGM member, was one of the governors of The Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust and Susan Evans was a clinician.
Marcus Evans says he sees similarities between what’s happening in Europe, and what’s happening in the United States. Likewise, doctors who spoke to NewsNation said medical groups in America are looking at what’s happening in Europe.
“We need more evidence and more research and studies into what we’re doing with these kids,” Marcus Evans said. “This is a highly controversial service. The children are very vulnerable. There’s a very weak evidence base for this approach.”