Tribune News Service

Students, including Mckenzie Wright, left, marched toward Philadelphia’s City Hall as they walked out of school to protest anti-trans legislation on Tuesday. Photo permission from Heather Khalifa/TNS.

Florida allows removal of transgender children from parental custody

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed SB 254 to grant courts temporary emergency jurisdiction of a child in Florida if they are provided gender-affirming healthcare, such as hormone prescriptions or reassignment surgeries. This means that all minors who receive any type of medical care to treat gender dysphoria could potentially be removed from the custody of their parents under the pretense of abuse.

DeSantis signed SB 254 on May 17 for immediate effect, though three Florida families with transgender children immediately filed suit in federal court on May 17. The law was temporarily blocked by a federal district court judge on June 6.

The law was likely inspired by a 2022 Texas executive order by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott for families of transgender teenagers to be investigated by the state’s family policing agency. SB 254’s sponsor, state Sen. Clay Yarborough, filed the bill in an aim to protect children’s childhoods.

“As lawmakers, we have to draw the line when drastic, life-altering gender dysphoria therapies and surgeries are mutilating young children,” Yarborough said in a press release. “We must take a strong stand for child safety and against a troubling social agenda that seeks to indoctrinate young children and replace the role of parents.”

In the DSM-5-TR, the diagnostic manual for all mental disorders and illnesses, it includes gender dysphoria as a condition with its course of action for treatment to be supportive environments and biomedical treatments to reduce incongruence between the mind and physical body of trans folk.

Therefore, as stated in the manual, teens with gender dysphoria, before gender-affirming treatment and legal gender change, are at a higher risk for suicidal ideation, suicide attempts and suicides, leading critics are concerned about the mental welfare of transgender minors in Florida.

Some students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who have views opposing trans people have expressed disconnect with the new law.

“I see both sides,” senior Noah Mila said. “Maybe [transitioning] is not the most healthy option, but it is their own choice. Florida is a pretty Republican state, so I’m not surprised the bill passed.”

Opposers of this law have found it to be in violation of human rights. Equality Florida Director of Transgender Equality Nikole Parker had given a response firmly against the law.

“This legislation is a gross assault on parental rights,” Parker said. “A supportive parent could lose custody of their child and face felony prosecution for seeking life-saving care. Healthcare providers would also be criminalized for practicing widely accepted medicine. Senator Yarborough should be ashamed, and every parent should be alarmed by this dangerous, authoritarian precedent.”

These sentiments have been reflected in the student body at MSD.

“I think the bill exemplifies clear authoritarian tendencies of the Floridian Republican party,” sophomore Jakob Lusskin said. “It is a clear violation of the rights of trans people in the United States and will only make sure to make the mental health and suicide rates of teenage trans people go up because of them not being able to get treatment. I think there is no reason for the government to be able to just abduct transgender kids from their parents for the crime of trying to be themselves. It’s disgusting.”

Transgender students have also voiced their opinions on the state’s legislature regarding their rights.

I can’t deal with the threats to my livelihood anymore. It feels like every morning I wake up not knowing what else is going to come on the news about what I can or can’t do. It’s infuriating.

— junior Avery Doe*

Regardless of the intentions of the Florida legislature, many lives and families will be subject to possibly irreversible changes in the face of SB 254. The political and social significance of the law will continue to reveal itself in the near future.

*Names indicated were changed to protect students’ anonymity

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