TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The mother of a transgender girl sobbed in federal court Wednesday as she contemplated having to move away from her Navy officer husband to get health care for her 12-year-old if Florida’s ban on gender dysphoria treatments for minors is allowed to take affect.
The woman, who testified as Jane Doe to protect the identity of her child, said her daughter went from being anxious and upset to a thriving, happy straight-A student after being allowed to live as a girl about eight years ago, a decision she made with her husband after multiple visits to their family’s doctor.
But as the girl approaches puberty, she fears she will start turning into a boy. Without treatment, she and her family will be devastated, the mother said.
“I will go to the end of the Earth to get my daughter the help she needs,” the woman testified through sobs as she pulled facial tissues from a box. “I think about, will our family get torn apart? Will we have to live somewhere else away from my husband?”
The testimony came as a trial began challenging Florida’s ban on medical treatment for transgender children, such as hormone therapy or puberty blockers, a law pushed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has campaigned on the issue while seeking the presidency. The law also places restrictions on adult trans care.
“This all started with the governor.” said Thomas Redburn, a lawyer representing trans adults and the families of trans children.
He noted other laws DeSantis has pushed to show the governor and Republican lawmakers have attacked transgender rights, including restricting the use of pronouns in schools that don’t match peoples’ sex at birth.
But lawyer Mohammad Jazil, representing the state, said the law is a matter of protecting people. He said in one case, a person was prescribed hormones after a 30-minute telehealth appointment. And other people have decided to detransition back to their birth sex and learned their treatment has caused permanent damage, he said.
“This case isn’t about overregulation, it’s about under-regulation,” Jazil said.
Judge Robert Hinkle has temporarily blocked enforcement of the law pending the outcome of the trial. The lawsuit also challenges restrictions placed on adult trans care, which are being allowed to take effect during the trial.
At least 22 states have now enacted laws restricting or banning gender-affirming medical care for transgender minors, and many of those states face lawsuits. Courts have issued mixed rulings, with the nation’s first law, in Arkansas, struck down by a federal judge who said the ban on care violated the due process rights of transgender youth and their families.
Enforcement is blocked in two states besides Florida, and enforcement is currently allowed in or set to go into effect soon in seven other states.
Redburn said in opening arguments that the Florida law is unconstitutional because it singles out an entire group of people. He pointed out that non-transgender adults can receive the same treatments, such as estrogen and testosterone, without having to jump through hoops.
“The state of Florida has decided that people should not be transgender,” Redburn said. “The fewer transgender people, the better.”
The girl’s mother testified that their family’s pediatrician diagnosed her daughter with gender dysphoria after she began gravitating towards girls’ toys and clothes as a 3-year-old. She described her daughter screaming and tearing off her clothes in her car seat while being driven to preschool. She and her husband have made four-hour roundtrips to the University of Florida so their daughter can get care from experts.
As for risks like infertility that Jazil noted in opening statements, the woman said, “The benefits for my daughter far outweigh the potential of the risks. Her biggest fear is what she calls turning into a boy. I’ve assured her that won’t happen.”
Jazil only questioned the girl’s mother briefly, including pointing out that the University of Florida health records didn’t list a height and weight for Jane Doe’s daughter.
Redburn said gender dysphoria is real and not something people choose because of social media and the influence of the internet, as policymakers have argued. He pointed out that Republican lawmakers who pushed for the law described transgender people as evil and a cult. He noted that the bill’s sponsor argued that God doesn’t make mistakes.
Separately Wednesday, a lawsuit was filed by three educators challenging the law restricting pronoun use in schools, saying that transgender and nonbinary teachers are prohibited from being themselves.
Ironically, Jazil consistently referred to Jane Doe’s daughter as “her” and “she” despite the state forcing others to use pronouns that match birth sex in schools.
The trial over trans health care is expected to last five days.