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Commentary: Can Gov. Ron DeSantis get any more anti-gay, anti-trans? Oh, yes. He can

Gov. Ron DeSantis

Gov. Ron DeSantis appoints Dr. Joseph Ladapo as the next surgeon general of Florida on Sept. 21, 2021. (Governor's Office photo/TNS)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ health department has once again dismissed the best minds in medical science to play Republican Party politics with people’s lives.

The target: transgender children and youth.

The goal: taking away the medically endorsed healthcare now available to them.

Because the recently enacted “Don’t say gay” law banning any discussion of gender identity in grades K-3 isn’t enough to quench the GOP thirst for erasure of might-be gay and want-to-be trans kids.

Instead of commanding the state Legislature to act, as he has done with his other phobias and political enemies, this time, the state Department of Health is his tool of repression.

And who better for the job than DeSantis’ surgeon general, Joseph Ladapo, who spurns mainstream COVID science, to help him dole out religious dogma and prejudice camouflaged as medical guidance?

And for no other reason other than to cater to voters who don’t like the cultural evolution that now recognizes trans people, many using a name different from their birth name, using pronouns “they” or “he/she” or cross-dressing.

Wednesday, Ladapo issued a DOH advisory against doctors and mental-health professionals offering such options to ease the social transition of children who feel they don’t belong in the body in which they were born.

Ladapo and his DOH also advised against more aggressive treatment for children and teenagers diagnosed with gender dysphoria.

And the state recommends no gender-affirming treatment for people under 18. No surgery, no hormone therapy or puberty blockers that suppress the release of testosterone in boys and estrogen in girls. No exceptions noted for kids contemplating suicide.

The DeSantis-Ladapo Method? If we don’t acknowledge it, don’t talk about it, don’t allow them to show who they truly are, the trans people will fade away.

There’s still no relief for skyrocketing insurance rates or the housing crisis, but the GOP has succeeded putting its priorities first.

Experts outraged

With the chilling effect of an advisory from the state’s top medical authority — in name only — partisan quackery wins again.

Medical professionals who work with trans children are rightly outraged.

“Most of the guidelines outlined here are at best the result of moral panic with unfounded scientific support and at worst a direct harm to our non-binary and trans youth,” wrote Ali Cunningham Abbott, program director and associate professor at Lynn University’s Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program, in an email to DOH.

“The cherry picking of studies you’ve based these decisions on (linked in your email) transparently politicizes the care of some of our most vulnerable children,” she said. “The guideline around prevention of social transition treatment was particularly weak in its application of the study’s findings.”

In other words, DeSantis is playing doctor again and he’s wrong — again.

Without first-rate medical care, children who manifest to their parents feelings of being in the wrong body can’t get help to address what’s happening to them.

Politicians can’t control biology with legislation or gubernatorial orders. Children who are gay will remain gay; children who feel and act trans will continue to do so.

But state leaders certainly can cause immeasurable harm by curtailing needed health services.

The guidance “may embolden practitioners that — for values reasons, not medical or scientific reasons — hold these beliefs and do harm to their patients,” Cunningham Abbott told me Thursday.

Then there’s the ethical conflict needlessly created for professionals between what the state is proposing and the course of treatment that most respected medical experts in the United States and beyond recommend.

“It’s such a clear political move, and this is what is more upsetting to the medical community,” Cunningham Abbott said, adding that Florida already has a shortage of therapists, and this may drive more like her to seek alternatives.

“As soon as I’m able, I will seek licensure elsewhere,” she wrote DOH. But she will be able to continue practicing in Florida under an agreement DOH just signed allowing licensed, out-of-state mental-health professionals to practice in the state. And they don’t have to follow DOH or Ladapo’s misrepresentations of care.

Fighting back

Setting back the work of the top medical professionals in Florida is exactly what DeSantis is trying to accomplish, desperate kids seeking solutions be damned.

But what’s a little more blood on DeSantis’ watch after the 73,759 COVID dead?

Gay and transsexual advocates are fighting back through a public-awareness campaign and planned court action to challenge a law framed as “parental rights” that discriminates against a class of students.

The governor isn’t suppressing the gay community. He’s energizing it.

Billboards are going up in Tallahassee, Tampa, Orlando and South Florida to “welcome” visitors to Ron DeSantis’ Florida, the work of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest LGBTQ+ civil rights organization.

The “sunshine” part of the state moniker is stricken by a red banner.

Its message: “The Sunshine State” is now the “Don’t Say Gay or Trans State.”

Right on point.

Fabiola Santiago is a columnist for the Miami Herald.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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