Florida’s recent enactment of restrictive laws has created significant challenges for transgender adults seeking gender-affirming care. While the debate primarily focused on transgender children, the legislation signed by Republican presidential candidate and Governor Ron DeSantis has also made it increasingly difficult for many transgender adults to access vital treatments. The repercussions of these laws have blindsided couples like Eli and Lucas, who, as trans men, suddenly find their lives disrupted.
The discussions surrounding the legislation in the Florida Legislature largely revolved around the impact on trans children. Democrats warned of the heightened suicide risk among trans minors deprived of gender-affirming care, while Republicans propagated misplaced tales of mutilated kids. Eli and Lucas, closely following the proceedings, were taken aback when they discovered that the bill also contained provisions that would directly affect their lives.
Communication about the implications of the law within their circles was minimal, leaving them feeling isolated. Transgender adults in Florida now face the daunting task of making difficult choices, including whether to uproot their lives to access gender-confirming care elsewhere. The impact extends beyond individuals, as clinics grapple with how to operate under regulations that have turned Florida into a test case for restrictions on adult healthcare.
Lucas, who is 26, lost access to treatment when the Orlando clinic providing gender-affirming care ceased its services entirely. Concerns now loom over staying in a state that has enacted multiple bills targeting the LGBTQ community. The ramifications are far-reaching, with potential job loss and the necessity of starting anew in unfamiliar surroundings. Despite the weight of their decisions, Lucas emphasizes that leaving Florida was not a choice made lightly, as it entails leaving behind everything except his partner, Eli, and their beloved pets.
Florida’s new legislation banning gender-affirming care for minors also imposes additional requirements on adult patients. These include signing an informed consent form, having a physician oversee any transitioning-related healthcare, and mandatory in-person visits. The rules prove onerous, particularly for those who previously received care from nurse practitioners and utilized telehealth services. Non-compliance with the new requirements is now a criminal offense.
Moreover, another law enables doctors and pharmacists to refuse treatment to transgender individuals, further constricting available options. The devastating impact on trans adults is undeniable, as Kate Steinle, the chief clinical officer at FOLX Health, points out. To continue providing gender-affirming care to enrolled patients, FOLX Health has had to undergo significant changes, including opening in-person clinics and employing more physicians licensed in Florida.
While Eli, having been seeing a physician for years, still retains access to care, Lucas finds himself without options after the Orlando clinic ceased providing gender-affirming care. Lana Dunn, the chief operating officer at SPEKTRUM Health Inc., reveals that numerous individuals are now searching for care that the clinic is no longer able to legally provide. The situation has led to chaos within the community, as approximately 80% of trans adults in Florida relied on nurse practitioners for their healthcare needs and have now lost access.
Florida, home to an estimated 94,900 transgender adults, represents the second-largest population of trans adults in the United States. Yet, these laws restricting or banning gender-affirming care for minors have now shifted attention to the dire situation faced by adults in the state. While some states have attempted similar restrictions, Florida has become a proving ground for what can be achieved. The consequences of these laws have left both healthcare providers and patients in a state of uncertainty and turmoil.
As the community grapples with the impact of these restrictive laws, healthcare providers face the challenge of adhering to regulations that may deter doctors from treating trans patients. The inclusion of a 20-year statute of limitations to sue over provided care adds to the concerns. Lana Dunn, herself a trans woman, experiences the emotional toll firsthand, navigating her own loss of access to hormones while striving to provide support to fearful patients. The lack of care and guidance for both herself and the community exacerbates the weight of the situation.
Lucas, who began his transition eight years ago at the age of 18, anticipates running out of hormone treatments soon. The mental and emotional toll of his body changing in a way that contradicts his identity looms large. Eli and Lucas have made the difficult decision to switch to a month-to-month lease and plan to relocate to Minnesota in November, seeking a place where they can access the care they need. Their unexpected journey highlights the urgent need to address the challenges faced by transgender individuals in Florida and beyond.