As Florida cracks down on the LGBTQ community, students prepare themselves for a tumultuous future

Daniel James/Unsplash

Diego Diaz | Interim Editor-in-chief 

When Ness Cruz checked their email on May 19, a sense of dread had seeped in. 

Like countless others in Florida, the SGA Housing Senator had been informed that their hormone replacement treatment had been paused until further notice, following Gov. Ron DeSantis’ signing of Senate Bill 254.

“I think that was the moment that it really became real for a lot of people”, said Cruz.

Yet, this would only represent one portion of a single bill within a slew of bills signed by Gov. DeSantis in May, directly and indirectly targeting the LGBTQ community’s access to healthcare and public bathroom use. 

For Cruz and other LGBTQ students, the bills call into question their relationship with the state they call home.

“From an individual standpoint, there’s kind of a disconnect, because this is the place where a lot of my peers and I have grown up,” said Cruz. “And to see not only that we are not welcome, but that they’re actively trying to get rid of us.”

With five percent of young adults in the U.S. identifying as trans or nonbinary, the communities of large public universities like FIU are significantly more likely to experience the effect of these laws.

Limitations to gender-affirming care

Senate Bill 254 bars all non-physician medical personnel from prescribing or administering gender-affirming care to adult patients, including nurse practitioners. It was this clause that led Planned Parenthood to halt all gender-affirming care offered until mid-June.

Planned Parenthood also announced a pause in new admittances, leaving folks not already enrolled with few other options. This is without mentioning the economic barrier already limiting those of lower income.

“If you’re going to Planned Parenthood, not even a specialist of any sort, or practitioners particularly geared towards helping queer and trans patients, the flat rate is around $250,” said Cruz. “It’s already not cheap.”

Cruz also highlighted their own experience in detailing the already lengthy process followed to receive gender-affirming care.

“I can speak from personal experience, it is a process where you have to speak with a practitioner, receive a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, and get the prescription for either testosterone or estrogen,” said Cruz. “Then you go on your own and pay out of pocket to acquire those medications.”

“This is just going to make it more difficult for trans people to get access to the treatment they need.” 

 Greyson Horton, a fellow PSU member, emphasized the mental anguish experienced by those unable to receive treatment.

“It’s very scary, to feel imprisoned in your own body and know how to change it and what will change it, but just not being able to out of bureaucracy,” said the sophomore psychology student. “Because some people think that what you’re feeling is wrong and it’s not an actual thing.”

Also threatening to curtail access to gender-affirming care is Senate Bill 1580, which allows medical professionals to refuse to administer specific medical services based on a “sincerely held religious, moral or ethical belief.” The legislation also extends the privilege to employers and health insurance companies among other “health care payors.”  

Moreover, Florida’s Department of Health, unlike the majority of national medical associations, has defined gender-affirming care as “experimental and investigational,” instead of a medical necessity

“It’s absurd. Multiple studies and organizations have concluded that gender-affirming care does save lives,” said Horton. “It reduces suicidality by a huge percentage.”

 Cruz also highlighted the vague wording of the bill, which would allow other medical services to fall under the purview of “conscious objection,” including contraceptives and the HIV preventative PrEP.

 “Healthcare providers can hold significant differences to what they consider morally or religiously objectionable, so when the brunt of this bills goes through, we’re going to see a lot of cases that this legislation didn’t necessarily account for,” said Cruz. 

Trans Bathroom Ban

Alongside these healthcare limitations, Gov. DeSantis also signed House Bill 1521, legislation barring transgender people from utilizing public restrooms consistent with their gender identity.

Under the new legislation, any person utilizing a public restroom as opposed to their sex and refusing to depart runs the risk of being charged with misdemeanor trespassing. 

In regards to FIU, the legislation makes clear that campus police would take charge of enforcement. PantherNOW reached out to FIUPD Chief Alexander D. Casas for interview but received no response by the time of publication.

Moreover, while the bill defines males and women by their reproductive roles, the legislation does not provide a method for identifying an occupant’s sex. 

“The problem with this bill is that you’re trying to determine who’s going to go into the bathroom based on their genitalia,” said Horton. “However, you can’t just ask people to pull down their pants in public and say, ‘Hey, are you a woman? Are you a man?’”

Cruz also highlights the bill’s unwritten targeting of transgender women, which they argue can be best understood when taking into consideration the experience of transgender men.

“You’re trying to say that someone born with a curvier figure has to go to the women’s bathroom,” said Cruz. “But what if that person has already forgone several years of HRT and has facial hair, they do not look like a woman.”

“It’s insulting because not all trans people are going to look the same, not all cis people look the same.”

While Republicans argue that the legislation serves to “protect women” from potential predators, Horton believes the bill would only serve to create an atmosphere of potentially violent vigilantism.  

“I believe there’s going to be an increase in assaults and physical confrontations to those that are gender nonconforming, and trans people who don’t pass as cisgender,” said Horton. 

“As well as cisgender people who don’t fall into traditional beauty standards, like traditionally masculine women of effeminate men, who may look androgynous, are going to be stopped.” 

 For Cruz, the policy only serves to exemplify the villainization of the LGBTQ community as an existential threat to women and children.

“It’s not actually about protecting these groups, it’s just the rhetoric they’re pushing in order for themselves to not be on record looking hateful,” said Cruz.

Yet, Cruz highlights that students dismayed by the recent political developments shouldn’t hide from politics, but rather, use the moment as a springboard for activism.

“I think one thing that young people continually have the upper hand on is in being interconnected, we have the ability to gain information about anything in the world within a couple of taps,” said Cruz. 

“I think that’s powerful, and it’s terrifying to the people in power.”

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