In a letter sent Friday to Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a coalition of attorneys general from 15 states and D.C. notified the governor that it is their belief that he and his administration are violating the privacy and rights of university age transgender students.
The letter’s lead signatory, New York Attorney General Letitia James, writing on behalf of the 16 partner coalition stated:
“The undersigned attorneys general write with grave concern over your request for information regarding the provision of gender-affirming care to Florida university students experiencing gender dysphoria. This information request may be intended to intimidate, and will actually intimidate, university administrators and health care providers and chill vulnerable students, including the students or staff in Florida’s state university system who are citizens of our states, from accessing necessary medical care.”
James goes on to caution DeSantis that his actions are violating federal protections against discrimination in accessing health care. The letter also notes that, “Governor DeSantis’ request for students’ private gender-affirming care information is discriminatory. Collecting this information appears to be paving the way for the governor to unconstitutionally target and limit the programs that these individuals rely on for healthcare and well-being.”
DeSantis’ budget director, Chris Spencer, at the governor’s behest sent a survey out in mid-January to all 28 state colleges and universities asking administrators for the numbers and ages of their students who sought or received gender dysphoria treatment, including sex reassignment surgery and hormone prescriptions.
“Our office has learned that several state universities provide services to persons suffering from gender dysphoria,” Spencer wrote in the cover letter accompanying the survey. “On behalf of the governor, I hereby request that you respond to the enclosed inquiries related to such services.”
That action by Spencer brought a rapid critique from Florida House Democratic leader Fentrice Driskell who said: “We can see cuts in funding for universities to treat students with this condition, and I think an all-out elimination of services is certainly on the table.”
The attorneys general pointed out in their letter referencing that survey: “Public reports suggest that you may seek to use the information sought to eliminate funding for necessary gender-affirming health care for students. This would be in keeping with your prior actions targeting the LGBTQIA community, and particularly transgender youth, such as cutting off funding under Medicaid for gender affirming care and calling upon the Florida Board of Medicine to prohibit use of puberty blockers and other gender-affirming care for people under 18.”
The Associated Press noted the survey requires breakdowns by age, regardless of whether students are age 18 or older, of people prescribed hormones or hormone antagonists or who underwent medical procedures like mastectomies, breast augmentation or removal and reconstruction of genitals.
In addition to the elimination of funding for trans-related healthcare through campus student health services, LGBTQ advocacy groups charge that these actions by the governor’s administration will only serve to further isolate an already marginalized trans community.
In the letter, the attorneys general further outlined their concerns especially in regard to the mental health and well being of trans students:
“Transgender young people are among the most vulnerable populations in the country. They are more likely than cisgender students to experience bullying, violence, sexual assault, and other forms of discrimination at school. Trans individuals of all ages already face steep barriers to obtaining basic health care, including lack of insurance, denial of coverage, and discrimination and denials of care by providers.”
For example, the Trevor Project’s 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that 60 percent of LGBTQ youth who wanted mental health care in the past year were unable to get it. Transgender youth also experience disproportionately high rates of houselessness, substance abuse, depression, anxiety, suicidality and other mental health issues.”
The letter notes: “Such actions jeopardize the health, safety and well-being of young people and their families, contravene well-accepted medical standards, unduly insert the state into the provider-patient relationship, violate students’ rights under federal law — including privacy — and offend basic human rights. Accordingly, we urge you to reconsider this action and rescind the information request immediately.”