Community reacts after Florida judge’s allows some gender-affirming care

Trans community member Ashby Santoro, 22, was disappointed, but unsurprised in April when Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a law that bans gender-affirming care for minors and severely limits it for adults. 

“[Transgender people] feel like we are under scrutiny by our current legislative body in Florida, we feel alone pretty much,” says Santoro. 

But then last month, U.S District Court Judge Robert Hinkle blocked a portion of the ban and gave some hope to Miami’s trans community. 

“I think for many Floridians, trans, LGBT, and gender non-conforming people, this was something so refreshing to see because it goes to show that there are people in our corner,” says Santoro. “It is setting a precedent that the legislation that we’re seeing is wrong.”

This ruling has created a rift in the Miami community, from health-care workers to political activists, with strong opinions coming from both sides.

While it does not completely block the ban, it is considered a huge win amongst Florida’s transgender community. 

“Judge Hinkle’s ruling on Florida’s gender-affirming care ban emphasizes what many of us already knew about the law,” says Tsi Dat Smyth, public relations director at Woman’s Voices of Southwest Florida. “[DeSantis’ ban] is innately unconstitutional. In Hinkle’s own words, the intrusion on parental rights could only be motivated by ‘opposition to transgender status itself’.”

According to the Planned Parenthood website, this ban puts restrictions on adults seeking gender-affirming care, such as requiring first time medication be prescribed in person, “physician-only requirements” for gender affirming care and creates criminal penalties for providers that violate this statute.

“Thank God,” says Florida State University student Emma Wasserman. “Obviously this isn’t going to fix all the damage to transgender and other LGBTQ+ rights being done in Florida and across the US, but it is going to help the kids involved continue with the medical care they’re already receiving, and that, however small it might seem, is a win.”

Some disagree with the ban and support DeSantis’ original ban. 

“I agree with Ron DeSantis,” says Carlos Bertonatti, co-founder of the Medial Health Institute. “I think it’s very stupid to allow a kid to make a decision on their sexual identity.”

He attributes the cause for what he terms “sexual fluidity” to “endocrine-disrupting” chemicals that our bodies confuse as our own, and mentions the research done by Dr. Shanna Swan, who is an environmental medicine and public health professor at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. Her research however, focuses on the way chemicals in our environment can cause infertility.

President of the College Republicans at FIU, Jacob Aguirre, agrees with Bertonatti’s sentiment, and argues that Judge Hinkle is acting as a “judicial activist” and overstepping his boundaries.

“This is the same judge who also made an injunction allowing felons to register and vote without fulfilling their financial obligations,” says Aguirre. “The judge is undermining the legislature’s intent and disregarding ultimately what the people of Florida voted for and want to see.”

A representative from the Pride Student Union at FIU counters Aguirre’s argument, saying that, “despite claims that the bill is meant to ‘protect children,’ those who endorse SB 254 are going against the advice of thousands of medical professionals in favor of misinformed ideas about how gender-affirming care works.” 

The UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute says that the LGBT population in Florida is 4.6 percent. A significant subgroup is transgender youth, whose suicide rate is alarmingly high, with studies showing that “82 percent of transgender individuals have considered killing themselves and 40 percent have attempted suicide.”

“I think [Judge Hinkle] saved some kids’ lives,” says Obsidian Rai, a 26-year-old trans-man. “Not being able to start your transition just because some dude who doesn’t know you wants to be favored politically is wack. I think this judge definitely did the right thing.” 

Izzy Canizares was born and raised in South Florida and is studying Digital Journalism as well as Theatre. They have had two journalism internships at Just Begin Magazine as a writer and WSFL Inside South Florida as a Production Intern.