Families are suing Florida for threatening their transgender children’s health care

Jade Ladue spent last weekend celebrating her son’s 13th birthday with him. And despite the stereotype of his age, when children are said to become unruly teenagers — he’s actually thriving, she says.

“He has so many hobbies. He likes playing sports, going out with friends, fishing, even going to school,” she said.

But she knows his coming-of-age experience could have been much worse. Because it wasn’t that long ago.

Ladue’s son, whom we call KF, has lived as a transgender boy for almost half of his young life. He came out when he was seven, she said.

Before that, he lived with gender dysphoria, which caused him painful anxiety and night terrors that constantly robbed him of sleep. He ended up getting in a lot of trouble at school because of it, she said.

But that quickly turned around when he came out as transgender, she said.

“He was a different person,” she said. “He had this light about him. He was happy again.

KF is taking puberty blockers prescribed by his endocrinologist. It prevents the physical manifestations that accompany female puberty and saves him from having to suffer his body to develop in a way that is incompatible with who he is.

And he’s scheduled to start taking testosterone next year, Ladue said.

But over the past six months or so, KF and his family have watched in horror as his chance to live without the anxiety and night terrors of his past has become less and less of a sure bet for his future.

So, they are suing the Florida Health Care Agency because it is depriving them of KF’s ability to access the health care that has so dramatically improved his quality of life.

They are one of four plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging the Florida Health Care Agency’s (AHCA) new rule that bars coverage for gender-affirming health care for transgender and non-binary Floridians who get their health insurance through Medicaid. The rule could force up to 9,000 transgender Medicaid beneficiaries to forgo medical care that their doctors have prescribed as medically necessary treatment, according to advocates.

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The state is the most vulnerable

The rule targets some of the state’s most vulnerable — people who live on low or fixed incomes, who are disabled, who are transgender and gender nonconforming. Just like the KF family.

“I feel like the weak are being attacked here,” Ladue said. “It’s very upsetting. The most important thing for us right now is to have that coverage [for gender-affirming care]because we cannot afford these expenses out of pocket.’

Ladue works as a patient coordinator in a dental office. KF’s stepfather is disabled and unable to work. He receives Social Security Disability and is a Medicare beneficiary. KF has four siblings ranging in age from five to 16.

“It’s tough,” Ladue said. “There’s this stereotype about people on Medicaid. … It’s not like we sit back and collect benefits. We are doing absolutely everything possible.”

A group of LGBTQ+ rights organizations, including Southern Legal Counsel, Lambda Legal, the National Health Law Program and the Florida Health Justice Project, filed the federal lawsuit against the AHCA last week.

On Monday, the legal groups asked the court to block implementation of the AHCA’s ban on gender-affirming care pending a trial on the merits of the rule.

Simone Criss, director of the Transgender Rights Initiative at Southern Legal Counsel, said legal teams filed the preliminary injunction seeking urgent relief “because every day that goes by with this rule,” which went into effect on August 21st — “real people are being harmed” — just like KF

Prohibition of treatment

Meanwhile, in a separate lawsuit, the Florida Board of Medicine is working to set a standard of care that would bar doctors like KF’s endocrinologist from providing treatment for gender dysphoria.

KF’s constant anxiety and night terrors were a direct result of the gender dysphoria he experienced just five or six years ago, Ladue said. If the Florida Board of Medicine gets its way, doctors like KF’s endocrinologist could face serious consequences, including losing their medical licenses. All about providing gender-affirming care to youth in tremendous pain like they did for KF

For now, KF has his faith and community to rely on, his mother said. His family attends church together every weekend, where their peers have shown them nothing but love, care and support.

Plus, he’s got his burgeoning family behind him every step of the way.

KF told his mother that he prays every day that he doesn’t have to go through this, Ladue said.

“He even said, ‘I’ll do whatever I can so I don’t have to be what I was,'” she said.

“One of our things that we said when we moved here years ago — we made a pact as a family that whatever happens, we’re going to make sure he doesn’t have to go through that,” she said. “As a parent, I will do everything I can to protect him and make sure he gets the care he needs.”

This story was first published by the Florida Phoenix, part of the State Newsroom network of newsrooms with the Louisiana Illuminator, supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. The Florida Phoenix maintains its editorial independence. Contact editor Diane Rado with questions: [email protected]. Follow Florida Phoenix on Facebook and Twitter.

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