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Republicans in several states push for limits on gender-affirming care for adults

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Across the country, Republican lawmakers have passed a record number of bills this year targeting the rights of transgender people. The argument in favor of those measures is often that they're intended to protect kids. But as WFSU's Regan McCarthy reports, limitations for adults frequently follow close behind.

REGAN MCCARTHY, BYLINE: This month, Kaleb Hobson-Garcia graduated with a degree in environmental science. Since he was a kid, he's loved the environment. But he hasn't always wanted to be a scientist.

KALEB HOBSON-GARCIA: I wanted to be a firefighter and an astronaut and a paleontologist.

MCCARTHY: One thing Hobson-Garcia, who's transgender, has always wanted to be is a boy.

HOBSON-GARCIA: I only ever felt connection to the idea of being a boy.

MCCARTHY: Hobson-Garcia started hormone therapy at 14. Now he's 21. He won't be impacted by Florida's bans on gender affirming care for kids. But Republicans in several states are pushing limits on care for adults, too. Florida lawmakers just passed a bill that says only physicians can provide gender affirming medical care. The bill also prohibits public dollars from covering its costs. State health insurance plans and Medicaid can't provide coverage. Hobson-Garcia injects himself with testosterone every two weeks. Without insurance, he estimates a month's supply would cost him up to $160. If he couldn't afford it...

HOBSON-GARCIA: I could start menstruating regularly again. That is not something that I've done since I started blockers. And that is something that would be incredibly dysphoric for myself and I'm sure for the thousands of other trans people that exist in the state of Florida.

MCCARTHY: Florida's law follows bans that were in place through administrative rules. Simone Chriss is a lawyer with the Southern Legal Counsel. She's challenging some of these bans.

SIMONE CHRISS: Like with everything else that these folks try to do to harm LGBTQ people, it's an easier lift and it's easier to swallow when it's, oh, we're protecting children.

MCCARTHY: And Chriss says it's long been that way. But restrictions have often significantly impacted adults, too.

CHRISS: The justification for not allowing same-sex marriage was it's harmful to children. And the justification for the drag bans is it's harmful to children. And the justification for everything that's happening - sports bans, it hurts cis girls. Bathroom bans, it hurts children.

MCCARTHY: That's how Governor Ron DeSantis talks about bills lawmakers passed in the recent legislative session.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RON DESANTIS: The legislature enacted historic protections for children.

MCCARTHY: DeSantis is widely expected to announce a 2024 presidential run.

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DESANTIS: You should not be doing puberty blockers. That is wrong. And we're glad that we put a stop to that in the state of Florida.

MCCARTHY: Critics say the slate of anti-LGBTQ+ bills passed in Florida this year are part of his plan to rally voters ahead of the Republican primary. Nationwide, 46% of people support barring gender affirming care for kids, according to a survey published last year by Pew Research Center. Sixty percent believe a person's gender cannot differ from their sex assigned at birth.

HOBSON-GARCIA: Transitioning and finding gender euphoria to someone who hasn't experienced that is, what is something in your life that you do to have people look at you that brings you joy and makes you think, yes, this is how I want people to look at me?

MCCARTHY: Hobson-Garcia says he can see why it might be hard for someone who doesn't know a transgender person to understand how it feels.

HOBSON-GARCIA: It can be something like, I'm an artist, I'm a musician, and I need people to know that. But it's a part of your identity that is so wholly you and brings you so much joy, you can't imagine not having that be a part of yourself.

MCCARTHY: Hobson-Garcia is again rethinking his career path. Instead of looking for jobs as a scientist, he's looking for jobs in grassroots organizing and advocacy. He wants to fight for transgender rights. Meanwhile, Florida Republicans are already making plans for more rules that would impact transgender people of any age.

For NPR News, I'm Regan McCarthy in Tallahassee.

(SOUNDBITE OF DELEVSKI'S "BETTER TIMES") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Regan McCarthy
Phone: (850) 487-3086 x374