Families of trans youth weigh leaving Florida as more bans on gender-affirming care loom
One Tampa Bay area mom says she's preparing to move her family out of state if lawmakers make it harder for her daughter to access health care. But they also want to fight for the families who can't.
Families of transgender children are distressed about the future as Florida lawmakers weigh more restrictions to gender-affirming care.
The Senate passed a bill this week that would reinforce rules recently enacted by state medical boards that ban doctors from prescribing treatments like puberty blockers and hormones to trans minors. Families and transgender advocates are challenging those rules in a federal lawsuit.
The bill goes further, increasing penalties for doctors, making it harder for adults to access care and blocking public institutions from helping to pay for it. It would also grant state courts temporary emergency jurisdiction in child custody cases where a child in Florida is receiving gender-affirming medications or procedures under the care of a parent in another state.
Lawyers stress to worried families that the bill does not criminalize parents for helping their kids get care as some other states have sought. But the fear is significant for many families, which is why one Tampa Bay area mom asked not to be named.
Her 13-year-old daughter began socially transitioning about five years ago and now takes puberty blockers. She plans to eventually start estrogen when she is older.
Her mom says they’re angry at state lawmakers for ignoring the pleas of transgender kids, their families and doctors who stress this care is safe and effective.
“These people are very firm in their bigotry, and that's what this is, bigotry,” she said.
As with the medical board rules, the Senate bill would allow kids who started treatment before restrictions were implemented to continue. But a House bill would require those children stop by Dec. 31.
"If we've got to go, we've got to go"
If her daughter was forced to go off her medication, her mother says it would devastate her physically and mentally.
“She would not survive it,” she said, expressing her fear that her daughter might die by suicide if she was forced to live in a body that didn’t align with her identity.
RESOURCE: If you or someone you know has thoughts of suicide, you can call 9-8-8 for the national Suicide and Crisis Lifeline
The single mom and her daughter are now grappling with the difficult choice of whether to move out of Florida.
“I don't know how many parents out there, for whatever reason, have heard their kids express that they would rather not be alive. But that is not something you ever want to hear once. And if you are ever unfortunate enough to, as a parent who would give your life for safety, security and happiness of your children, you are going to do whatever it takes to never hear those words again.
“So if worst-case scenario happens, if these bills are passed as they are currently worded, [legal] injunctions don't work, if medical insurance companies are taking this as an excuse to start denying coverage — we're out. We can't stay,” she said.
She explained she lives with her parents right now to save money on housing. While they are accepting of her daughter’s identity, she said they had told her if she and her daughter moved, they would not be going with them.
“My parents are getting older, but they still help, you know, we are a team,” she said. “And to know that wherever it is we choose to go, that the team reduces by half, it was really hard."
That changed when a House committee advanced its bill last month, rejecting Democratic lawmakers' attempt to add an amendment that would have allowed her daughter and other existing patients to continue care.
“As soon as I read it [the bill text], I was in my car, I had just parked, and the gravity of it just kind of hit me,” said the mom. “It was no longer conceptual that they're [Republican lawmakers] trying to kill my kid. And I lost it. And I just sobbed.”
Her parents saw her crying and came out to ask what was wrong. She filled them in about the bill.
“And they looked at me and they said, ‘If we've got to go, we've got to go,’” she said, her voice breaking with emotion. “And it was the first time that they were willing to go with us. Because we're a team. And the amount of hope that that gave me — it’s unspeakable.
“But the flip side of that is feeling for all of the people that don't have the hope. And you know, what slays me, is I was talking to my daughter about it because she has to know what's coming. And she said, ‘Mom, when we get where we're going, can we be, like, a safe haven for other kids?’ So, to all of you who don't have hope, we’ll be your hope."
She wiped tears from her eyes before pointing out that despite the hardships, her family is more fortunate than others.
“I'm lucky because I can go,” she said. “It will be hard. It will financially devastate me, but I can do it. My heart shatters for the families that can't for whatever reason. There are a ton of reasons why families can't go. We’ve got to fight for them.
“You don't have to have a trans human in your life to care. You just have to care.”