BY HEATHER MCLEAN
Our job at DeLand Pride is to help our community have a voice. That’s a mission that extends past this town to the laws that directly impact us.
DeLand Pride left at 4 a.m. Monday, March 13, to reach the state Capitol, joining over 200 volunteers from across the state. We traveled in a van to join with Equality Florida to have a voice in the 20 different pieces of anti-LGBTQ legislation proposed this session, including four being brought before committee hearings just that week. Joe Saunders, who has been Equality Florida’s senior political director for 10 years, said this was unprecedented.
We split into smaller groups and met with legislators about these bills that are really about our community and will impact our lives. Educating allies and potential allies in the Legislature allows them to be better advocates and champions for our community.
At a Senate Health Policy Committee meeting, SB 254: Treatments for Sex Reassignment bill was scheduled for debate and action by the committee members. We learned that the bill would ban gender-affirming care in children, remove telehealth and nurse practitioner administration of gender-affirming care in adults, criminalize doctors for giving gender-affirming care to children, and allow for unsupportive parents to use the family court system to sue for custody of a child when a supportive parent wants to get gender-affirming care for their child.
Before we got to that bill, however, the committee held its Senate Confirmation Hearing for Joseph Ladapo, Gov. Ron DeSantis’ pick to be Florida’s surgeon general.
Not only did Dr. Ladapo indicate that he believes that gender-affirming care in children is unethical because there is no “good data” that conclusively shows that gender-affirming care is helpful in children, he was also reluctant to say that he disagreed with one of his former colleagues who has claimed that cysts in endometriosis are caused by demonic seed. Despite that, the committee confirmed Ladapo.
Sen. Clay Yarborough, who wrote and sponsored SB 254, said that the intention behind this bill is to protect children. Upon questioning from Sen. Lauren Book, he also admitted that he did not consult a single doctor or a parent of a transgender child (or a transgender person, for that matter) when writing the bill.
Sens. Book and Tracie Davis offered several amendments to the bill, proposing to alter or remove parts pertaining to custody, criminalization of doctors providing care, and the removal of the telehealth- and nurse practitioner-provided care. All failed.
Over 100 people spoke in opposition to the bill, many of them parents of transgender children, transgender adults who have been receiving care for years, and even transgender children themselves. All of their testimony was heartbreaking.
Notably, a veteran in their 60s spoke about how they could have avoided high blood pressure at the age of 10, and later alcoholism and addiction, if they had had access to gender-affirming care as a child. A pediatrician representing the American Academy of Pediatric Medicine attested that this treatment has been used for 45 years and is not experimental or potentially damaging. He did mention that the biggest side effect of a child not receiving gender-affirming care when they need it is suicide. A 12-year-old pointedly asked Sen. Yarborough, “Why are you so afraid of me?”
Only two people spoke in support of the bill.
In one of our meetings with a representative, we were asked, “How does someone know they are transgender?” One of our DeLand Pride volunteers answered, “If you were suddenly told to suddenly start dressing like a woman, wearing a dress, shaving, wearing a wig, would you still know you’re a man?”
He answered, “Yes. That makes sense.”
Watching our representatives not represent us for political points was devastating, but also inspiring. Showing up and seeing the community show up reminded us why we do what we do.
Even though at the end of the day it didn’t feel like they saw us, seeing the community, especially young people, speak out and have a voice felt hopeful. We are here for you, and are not going anywhere. Please reach out at DeLandPride.org to find out more and get involved.
— Heather McLean is the public information officer for DeLand Pride and the vice president of the board of directors for Support Volusia. She has worked in digital marketing for over 15 years, and she lives in DeLand with her wife and son.