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A trans father reacts to parental rights law and Florida’s treatment guidance for transgender youth

man wearing a bicycle helmet and glasses stands on a deck in front of water.
Courtesy: Elliot Long
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WUSF
Elliot Long is a trans father of a first grader in Spring Hill.

Elliot Long says that he and his family have thought about leaving Florida, but realized that staying and “fighting the good fight” would be more impactful.

Elliot Long is a transgender father of a first grader who attends Classical Preparatory School in Spring Hill, where Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the controversial Parental Rights in Education — also what some critics have called the “Don’t Say Gay” bill — into law.

Long recently wrote a letter to school administrators expressing his frustration with the school hosting bill signing. They replied a week later.

“I got a response from the school’s principal,” said Long. “I appreciate the personal response, I just feel frustrated that there’s not been a more public statement of ‘we are still here for all of you.’”

In their reply to Long, principal Jasmine Brightman said that Classical Preparatory — which was started by the wife of current Florida Department of Education chair Richard Corcoran — did not intend to convey that they are “actively endorsing any bill or specific political view.”

“It’s impossible to remain neutral when the press conference used the school’s students in support of the bill,” Long said.

Long’s partner is part of the staff at Classical Preparatory, but he says that they plan on keeping their child enrolled at the school, and that his partner won’t be leaving his job anytime soon.

“He's thinking about not just how this impacts him, but how it impacts his students and what it would mean to just leave those students,” said Long. “For someone who's supportive to just take off like that doesn't make the school any better.”

Long said that he and his family have even thought about leaving Florida, but realized that staying and “fighting the good fight” would be more impactful.

“I've been an activist and an organizer for two decades. When something happens that I think is wrong, I think, okay what am I going to do? What action can I take? And at this point, I'm at a loss of what to do next.”

Another of Long’s concerns is the Florida Department of Health release last week of new guidance on the treatment of gender dysphoria for children and adolescents.

He said such state actions as the law and the guidelines feel like a direct attack.

“I think what Florida is doing right now is really dangerous. It’s making vulnerable kids more vulnerable,” Long said. “Trans kids are some of the most vulnerable kids in our schools, the rates of suicidal thoughts and attempts of suicide among transgender non-binary kids are incredibly high.”

The state guidance — which runs counter to federal advice — says that people who are under 18 should not be prescribed puberty blockers or hormone therapy. It also warned against social gender transition, including wearing gender affirming clothing and using alternative pronouns.

I am a WUSF Rush Family/USF Zimmerman School Digital News Intern for the spring 2022 semester; this is my second internship with the station.