FACT CHECK: Human Rights Campaign Rebuts Florida Department of Health Disinformation About Gender Affirming Care Point by Point

by Laurel Powell

WASHINGTON—In response to Thursday’s release from the Florida Department of Health which attacked the established standards of age-appropriate, medically-necessary, and often life-saving care for transgender youth, the Human Rights Campaign has released a point-by-point rebuttal detailing the bad science and disinformation behind the newest attack on transgender and non-binary youth in Florida.

During a time when people should be turning to their state health departments for meaningful, science-driven advice, Florida’s Department of Health and Gov. Ron DeSantis have used it as a mouthpiece for dangerous disinformation. The truth still matters and the evidence is clear: denying trans youth the ability to transition is dangerous, abusive, and life-threatening. We’ve debunked the bad science behind this latest attack on transgender and non-binary youth - and laid out the facts.”

Shoshana K. Goldberg, Ph.D. MPH, Director of HRC’s Public Education & Research Program

This new fact sheet details four false assertions from the Florida DoH’s release, many of which present misleading interpretations of study findings, ignore the authors’ own citations where they contradict the DoH’s own claims, and exclude important contextual information. HRC’s Public Education & Research team draws from a large body of scientific, academic, and clinical evidence to show the overwhelming support for age-appropriate, best-practice gender-affirming care.

In its new guidelines, the Florida Department of Health make no less than four major lies about gender-affirming care and transgender youth. Topline points are below, with additional data points in the fact sheet itself.

  • LIE #1: Detransition rates among youth are high and it is dangerous to allow youth access to gender-affirming care.
    • REALITY: Numerous published studies from more recent years have noted that detransition is rare and gender-affirming care is not dangerous.

  • LIE #2: There is no evidence to support the positive impact of gender-affirming medical care for transgender youth.
    • REALITY: There is, in fact, overwhelming evidence to support the positive mental health impacts of gender-affirming medical care for trans youth - including in some of the very studies they cite.

  • LIE #3: Providing gender-affirming care for transgender youth means harmful, irreversible surgeries and medical therapies, which carry short- and long-term health risks.
    • REALITY: Gender-affirming medical care for trans youth and adolescents under 18 is largely concentrated to social transition – meaning allowing a person to change individual’s name, pronouns, and gender expression – gender-affirming hormones and puberty blockers, many of which have been safely used with cisgender youth for decades, and which have proven safe and effective among transgender youth.

  • LIE #4: A study claimed that “transitioning socially is not beneficial for children with gender dysphoria”
    • REALITY: Numerous studies have found that, after social transition, transgender youth report similar mental health levels to the general youth population, eliminating mental health disparities typically seen. When their identity is affirmed by people around them, transgender youth report lower rates of depression and suicidality. In fact, in the single study the DoH uses to recommend against social transition–which for many kids is something as simple as changing their hair or pronouns–the study authors go on to immediately state “supporting this step may still be considered in individual cases and together with the whole family.”

More detailed information is available in our full, point-by-point rebuttal.

On Wednesday, the Human Rights Campaign and Equality Florida denounced the move, saying in part, “Like Governor Ivey in Alabama and Governor Abbott in Texas, Governor DeSantis is focused on making it as difficult as possible to be a transgender child - this farce of a document dangerously threatens trans youth and their families, invades families’ right to privacy, threatens medical providers complying with best-practice standards of care, and doubles down on the relentless attacks that transgender youth have faced across the country this year.” Statements were also issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics, Endocrine Society, and the American Psychological Association condemning the Florida Department of Health guidelines.

In Texas, a non-binding legal opinion from that state’s attorney general was swiftly followed by instructions from the governor that resulted in families being investigated for supporting their transgender children in receiving age-appropriate, medically necessary care. This caused a tidal wave of resistance from parents, families, and business leaders, eventually leading to a lawsuit from the ACLU, Lambda Legal, and others. Alabama recently passed the first ever law to impose felony criminal penalties on medical professionals who offer evidence-based, age-appropriate, gender-affirming treatment to youth, which has also spurred lawsuits. Last year, the Arkansas legislature overrode the governor’s veto to enact a law that bans gender affirming care. That law is currently suspended as a result of litigation.

Last month, HRC uplifted the story of Maya, an outgoing 11-year-old who loves spending time with her family. Gender-affirming care allows her to be the person she’s always been — but many states, now including Florida, are trying to prevent Maya and other trans kids from accessing these medically necessary, life-saving resources. We’ve also shared the story of Sgt. David Fuller, after he bravely testified before Alabama lawmakers as they tried to ban the gender-affirming health care that saved his daughter’s life. Age-appropriate, best-practice gender-affirming health care improves health outcomes for transgender youth and adolescents.

For more information on how to report on issues pertaining to transgender people, please visit HRC’s Brief Guide to Getting Transgender Coverage Right. For more information on separating facts from disinformation when it comes to gender-affirming care, HRC has provided an FAQ setting the record straight.

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