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Florida Is Poised to Ban Gender-Affirming Care for Minors — We Need a Movement for Trans Lives

In the latest assault on trans youth, the Florida Board of Medicine voted to draft a rule to ban gender affirming care for anyone under the age of 18. This heinous attack must be fought back by a mass movement.

Sybil Davis

November 1, 2022
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Protesters stage a "die-in" in the lobby of the Orlando International Airport on Oct. 28, 2022
Photo: Kat Duesterhaus

On Saturday October 29, the Florida Board of Medicine voted to begin drafting rules that will ban all gender affirming care for anyone under 18. They did this based on a “medical report” written by a dentist, after refusing to let activists and experts opposed to the ban speak at the hearing while trans youth led a die-in outside. This is the latest advance of the far-right’s deadly and radical anti-trans agenda. 

The Florida Board of Medicine sets and regulates medical practices and medical professionals in the state of Florida. This rule would essentially ban medical professionals from providing gender affirming care unless they want to risk losing their licenses. This vote follows the DeSantis administration issuing a non-binding order to the Florida Department of Health to stop not just medical transition but also social transition for trans children. This goes hand-in-hand with the attacks on trans kids’ rights in schools and is an attempt to forcibly prevent kids from transitioning and detransition those who have already begun the process. This goes against all respected medical and educational advice, the wishes of many parents, teachers, and doctors, and (most importantly) the desires of the trans people themselves who have a right to autonomy over their own bodies. DeSantis has also made moves to ban Medicaid recipients from receiving gender affirming care as well.

These far-right zealots aren’t happy just banning trans girls from playing sports, they aren’t happy banning trans people from using the correct bathroom, they aren’t even happy banning mentions of queerness from schools. To put it simply: they won’t be happy until they have effectively made it illegal to be trans. While these current attacks may be focused on trans youth — with the baseless justification of “protecting children” — the attacks won’t end there. And they won’t just stay in Florida, Texas, and the other “red” states currently passing restrictions. 

Already, House Republicans have proposed a national version of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which would ban any program which received federal funding from “exposing” children under 10 to queer content. House Republicans also unsuccessfully tried to pass a national ban on trans kids playing sports. As many anticipated, Republicans have made attacks on trans people — but specifically trans girls — the heart of much of their political activity at the state level. If — as is likely — the Republicans retake the House and/or Senate after the midterms, attempts to nationalize these attacks will likely only increase — especially as more members of the Republican right join Congress. 

The Democrats, for their part, have nothing to offer trans people. Not only is their empty neoliberal capitalist program a dead end for working class and oppressed people, but the Democrats won’t even acknowledge the attacks on trans rights. Judging from their midterm ads and propaganda, you wouldn’t even know the largest attack on trans people in modern history was occuring. When Democrats do talk about trans people, it is often to blame trans issues for alienating hypothetical voters. The current crusade against “wokeness,” Democratic leaders like Obama talking about how we need to focus less on “political correctness,” and Hillary Clinton saying that trans rights shouldn’t be a priority for Democrats are all thinly veiled (or, in Clinton’s case, unveiled) political rejections of even the appearance of fighting for trans rights. The Democrats have made the political decision to distance themselves from trans people — while we are undergoing the harshest attacks on record. 

We cannot fight back these attacks by putting our faith in a party that won’t even acknowledge these attacks. We won’t win by staying on the hamster wheel of trusting bourgeois electoral politics. Rather, we must rely on our own power and our solidarity with other workers. 

We must build a fighting movement on the streets that takes the lessons from Black Lives Matter and the abortion rights movement in Latin America to form a truly mass movement that will link with the labor movement to demand that these laws be overturned. As the chants say: no justice, no peace. 

We can see the seeds of such a movement in the actions that young people took in Virginia a few weeks ago. After proposed anti-trans policies for schools became public, thousands of high school students walked out of their schools. These walkouts are just a beginning, but they show us a way forward. These walkouts must be massified and joined by workers. There should be state-wide and national days of action for trans rights, mass protests, walkouts, and even strikes. We cannot sit on our hands and wait for this movement to spring up on its own. The task of building this movement starts now. 

These attacks are focused mainly on health care and education rights. So education and health care workers must help lead the fight to protect these rights. The far-right has forced their reactionary agenda over the wishes and recommendations of teachers and healthcare providers. So, in this sense, these attacks are also attacks on teachers and healthcare providers, and they must unite with the trans community and our allies to fight them. 

There are many fights facing us as workers, and teachers and healthcare workers are no exception. They need to fight for better wages, safe working conditions, and a whole slew of other things. But protecting the rights of queer teachers, trans students, and all the other people who are the targets of these right-wing attacks is equally essential. Ensuring that every worker (cis or trans, queer or straight) has the right to a safe working environment where they can actually do their jobs (a thing that these anti-trans laws actively prevent) is a vital demand for workers and their organizations. In addition, fighting for the protection of these rights can help build worker power and solidarity, which then prepares them for other workplace fights in the future. As an example of the link between fighting for trans rights and the fight for economic demands in the workplace, we can look to the experience of the Madygraf factory in Argentina, where workers went on strike to support a trans coworker. This strike built important worker power, which ended up giving them the power to eventually take over the factory and put it under worker control. 

In this, we should be clear that our greatest power as workers is in our workplace. It is there that we can stop production dead in its tracks. We can stop huge sectors of industry, and if we organize collectively, bring the entire economy to a halt. This would hit directly at the capitalist profits and give us incredible leverage to demand that our rights be protected. Strikes for trans rights must be on the table and union members should demand that their unions take action. As the chants say: if we don’t get [our demands], shut it down. 

There is no justice for trans children in Florida, in Texas, or in any other state under this oppressive system that has placed trans kids in its crosshairs. There is no justice for the trans children who die by suicide. There is no justice for the trans children who will be forcibly detransitioned due to these attacks. There is no justice for the trans children who stay closeted to avoid these attacks. There is no justice. So there should be no peace.

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Sybil Davis

Sybil is a trans activist, artist, and education worker in New York City.

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