Stating that gender identity is real, a federal judge temporarily blocked parts of a new Florida law that prohibits transgender minors from receiving puberty blockers, ruling on Tuesday that the state had no rational basis for deny treatment to patients.
Judge Robert Hinkle issued a preliminary injunction, saying three transgender children can continue to receive treatment. The lawsuit challenges the law that Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed shortly before announcing his candidacy for president.
“The elephant in the room should be noted upfront. The gender identity is real. The record clearly shows that,” Hinkle said, adding that even a state witness agreed.
Transgender medical treatment for minors is under increasing attack in many states and is being restricted or banned outright. But it has been available in the United States for over a decade and is endorsed by major medical associations.
Hinkle’s decision narrowly centered on the three children whose parents had filed suit.
Attention to the new law has focused on language involving minors, and Hinkle’s ruling focuses on the use of GnRH agonists, known as puberty blockers, and hormones cross-sex. The lawsuit does not address other terms that make it difficult or impossible for adults to receive or continue gender-affirming care.
Hinkle said people who mistakenly believe gender identity is a choice “also tend to disapprove of anything transgender and therefore oppose medical care that supports a person’s transgender existence.” .
Banning treatment of minors ignores the risks patients might face, Hinkle said.
Research suggests that transgender youth and adults are prone to stress, depression, and suicidal thoughts, and the evidence is mixed on whether hormone treatment or surgery resolves these issues.
Even before considering medical treatment, experts agree that it is beneficial to allow children to express their gender in a way that matches their identity, for example by letting children referred to as male at birth wear clothes or hairstyles commonly associated with girls, if they so choose.
“There are risks associated with not using these treatments, including the risk – in some cases, the near certainty – of anxiety and depression and even suicidal ideation. The challenged law ignores the benefits that many patients derive from these treatments and the substantial risk posed by foregoing the treatments,” Hinkle said.
He also noted that hormone treatments and puberty blockers are often used to treat non-transgender children for other conditions, so the law makes their use legal for some but not others.
The three children in the lawsuit “will suffer irreparable harm” if they cannot start puberty blockers, Hinkle said.
“The treatment will affect the patients themselves, no one else, and will cause no harm to the defendants,” Hinkle said.
The governor’s office did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.