Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis targets trans health care at colleges and universities

Collecting details on people who access certain kinds of medical care — yeah, that's not at all dystopian.

click to enlarge a trans person and a trans man are sitting at a table with laptops discussing something in a meeting
photo by Zackary Drucker and Alyza Enriquez/Gender Spectrum Collection

Continuing to target treatment for transgender people, Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration is requiring state universities to provide information from the past five years about services they have provided to people with gender dysphoria, according to documents released Wednesday.

Chris Spencer, director of the governor’s Office of Planning and Budget, sent a memo last week requiring that universities answer a lengthy list of questions about issues including numbers of people who sought “sex-reassignment treatment,” numbers of people prescribed such things as hormones and puberty blockers and numbers of people who underwent surgical treatments such as mastectomies.

It also seeks breakdowns of the information by age. Answers are due by Feb. 10.

The memo and an accompanying document did not detail what the DeSantis administration will do with the information dating back to Jan. 1, 2018. But the administration has taken a series of steps during the past year to curb treatment for transgender people, including prohibiting Medicaid coverage for such treatments as puberty blockers, hormone therapy and gender-reassignment surgery.

DeSantis, who is widely viewed as a potential 2024 Republican presidential candidate, also has taken aim at what he has called “trendy ideology” in colleges and universities. As an example, Spencer on Dec. 28 issued a memo that required colleges and universities to provide “a comprehensive list of all staff, programs and campus activities related to diversity, equity and inclusion and critical race theory.”

The memo last week said the governor’s office “has learned that several state universities provide services to persons suffering from gender dysphoria.” The federal government defines gender dysphoria as clinically “significant distress that a person may feel when sex or gender assigned at birth is not the same as their identity.”

The accompanying document included the list of information sought and was broadly written. It did not appear to be limited to information about services provided to students and university employees. It was not clear whether that could implicate services provided to the general public by university faculty members.

The University of Florida’s UF Health, for instance, says on its website that “UF Health is committed to improving the health and well-being of transgender and non-binary individuals in the communities we serve.”

“At UF Health, we aim to provide compassionate, evidence-driven care for our patients of the transgender and gender non-binary communities,” the website says. “Our multidisciplinary approach allows our patients to work with a physician to develop a care plan that meets their specific needs. We are committed to providing comprehensive primary care, hormone management, behavioral health, surgical services and more.”

Similarly, the University of South Florida’s USF Health says on its website, “We provide specialized services for individuals who are going through the phases of gender affirmation. As an academic medical center, we have a multi-specialty approach to providing comprehensive care to the transgender community.”

The document that accompanied Spencer’s memo gave an instruction that universities “provide all information or data for all individuals, including those who were under 18 at the time of any encounter or treatment, as the case may be.”

The memo also made clear that the universities should not provide information that would identify patients.

“Please ensure all responses do not contain personally identifiable information or protected health information and are provided in an aggregated and de-identified format,” the memo said.


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