Non-Binding Guidance from Florida Department of Health on “Treatment of Gender Dysphoria for Children and Adolescents” Contrary to Medical Consensus
 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – April 21, 2022

CONTACT: Simone Chriss, Director of Transgender Rights, Southern Legal Counsel, (352) 271-8890, Simone.chriss@southernlegal.org

GAINESVILLE, FL – Southern Legal Counsel (SLC) works to protect the rights of transgender individuals throughout Florida, including the rights of transgender youth to access medically necessary, gender-affirming care. SLC stands with transgender youth and families throughout Florida and seeks to provide clarity for those who are concerned about the impact of the guidance released yesterday.

On April 20, 2022, the Florida Department of Health issued non-binding guidance opposing the provision of gender-affirming care to transgender minors. This non-scientific, unsupported guidance opposes even social transition, i.e. using a different name, pronoun, or clothing. National studies make clear that transgender youth experience depression at 5-7x the rate, and suicidality at 50x the rate, of their cisgender peers. Further, we know that social transition can mitigate these devastating outcomes and can be life-saving and life-affirming for these youth.

The Florida DOH’s non-binding guidance is in direct contrast to the science-backed guidelines of every major medical organization in the country, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Endocrine Society, the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH). The non-binding guidance was issued in response to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ guidance on treating gender dysphoria for children and adolescents, which relies on carefully and deliberately considered studies, expert opinions, and national guidelines.

SLC has a Medical Legal Partnership with the University of Florida (“UF Health”) Youth Gender Program, through which we work with a team of licensed Florida healthcare professionals, including pediatric endocrinologists, who provide high quality care to transgender and gender diverse youth. As evidenced by the following sign on letter authored by the UF Health pediatric providers, their goal is to “provide the best quality, evidence-based, individualized, and compassionate care for [their] patients” to allow them to “achieve their optimal physical, mental, emotional, and social health and well-being.”

The non-binding guidance issued by the Florida Department of Health does not carry the weight of law, and it is not entitled to deference by the courts, pursuant to Article V, Section 21 of the Florida Constitution. The guidance was promulgated as a press release, without formal rulemaking under statutory process and authority, and thus does not confer any mandatory duties or requirements. Further, the guidance uses the term "should not" rather than the mandatory "must not" or "shall not." As supported by the recent letter issued by the U.S. Department of Justice to State Attorneys in states seeking to block transgender minors from accessing gender-affirming care, such actions are inconsistent with federal law.

If any transgender minor in the state of Florida is denied access to medically-necessary, gender-affirming care as a result of this non-binding, non-scientific guidance, please contact SLC. We want to reaffirm our commitment to protecting the civil rights and liberties of all transgender Floridians.

 

In solidarity,

 /s/ Simone Chriss                                           

Director of Transgender Rights Initiative

Southern Legal Counsel