Guest Opinion: From gender-affirming care to bathroom use: DeSantis impinges on LGBTQ issues

  • by Gabbi Tuft
  • Wednesday September 27, 2023
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Florida Governor and Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis. Photo: AP file
Florida Governor and Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis. Photo: AP file

When Florida Governor Ron DeSantis first announced he was taking on Donald Trump in hopes of becoming the Republican nominee for president in 2024, early reports showed he held a steady lead over the former president. Now, several months into a campaign that seems to be circling the drain, those prospects appear to be fading.

Even though it is looking more and more likely that DeSantis will not land the support of his party, his influence is still leaving an indelible mark. Growing tensions in his home state of Florida, as well as his "Make America Florida" campaign platform, have forced LGBTQ issues front and center.

DeSantis began his assault on the LGBTQ community as part of his "Stop Woke" campaign, which sought to end anything remotely inclusive in the name of "protecting the children" and "protecting individual freedoms." Under Stop Woke, content deemed "inappropriate" was kept out of schools and other state institutions; diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training ground to a halt; and the pathway was laid for further legislation, including the Parental Rights in Education Act — better known as "Don't Say Gay." Most recently, bans on gender-affirming care for both adults and minors, as well as restrictions on bathroom usage for transgender individuals, were passed and upheld in the state of Florida. With his bid for the White House, DeSantis is hopeful that he can indeed "Make America Florida" and make such bans a nationwide standard.

For DeSantis, his declaration that "Florida is where 'woke' goes to die" is his not-so-subtle signal to all LGBTQ people that they are not welcome. It's a mindset that has taken hold among the far right, who have chosen the LGBTQ community — and transgender people specifically — as their most recent prime target.

The main issue with DeSantis' platform is that it is largely based on misinformation and outright lies. At the signing ceremony for the bill that blocked gender-affirming care for minors, DeSantis said, "They're trying to do sex change operations on minors, giving them puberty blockers and doing things that are irreversible to them."

Despite what some may believe from what they see on social media, scientists and medical professionals from Duke Health, the University of North Carolina, and East Carolina University have corrected the notion that, "...while they do accept children as patients, surgery and hormone therapy are not available to such small children." Puberty blockers are not permanent, and other gender-affirming care — such as clothing changes and pronoun affirmations — are completely reversible.

The teen years are tough. Teenagers are already confused about who they are, and the influx of hormones can cause more confusion. It can be challenging to figure out one's identity. If one feels they were born in the wrong body, it can be even more confusing. In most cases, a parent will know if a child is simply following a trend, if they are seeking to escape something, or if their feelings of being trans are real. By drawing such a hard line, DeSantis is stripping away the rights of mothers and fathers to effectively parent their own children. The medical community and the LGBTQ community agree that in many cases, gender-affirming care can be life-saving.

DeSantis' bathroom bans are also not rooted in reality. Think of me — a transgender woman who has undergone multiple feminization surgeries and years of hormones — walking into a men's bathroom. While I am a public figure, those who aren't familiar with my story or know anything about me, more often than not, have no idea I am transgender. If someone like me waltzed into a men's restroom it would definitely raise some eyebrows. If I were figured out to be trans, I would be running the risk of having harm done to me.

On the other hand, when I have gone into the ladies' room to do my business, there has never been an issue. I typically go in, use the restroom, and leave fairly expeditiously. However, oftentimes, women will strike up a conversation with me at the sink. We compliment each other's makeup and wish each other a nice day. I am at far more risk using the bathroom that aligns with the sex I was assigned at birth. But, it is not my safety that DeSantis and his ilk are concerned with — and therein lies the problem.

Early in my transition, I was petrified to use the bathroom in public, specifically at the gym. I would hold it until I got home. I understood that women might have been uncomfortable with my presence during that stage of my transition, and I am not out to make anyone uncomfortable. It's a weird place to be — understanding the optics of early transition, but at the same time understanding why I should be allowed to use the ladies' room.

I don't have easy solutions. I just know that an all-out ban and discriminatory action against transgender people isn't it.

DeSantis' assault on the LGBTQ community is a vote grab — plain and simple. He hopes to become president by stepping on the backs of the community, and he is stepping hardest on transgender individuals by using terms like "woke" and "trans" to keep him in office. Perhaps if we were to take some of the funding DeSantis is funneling into his lackluster presidential campaign, we could use it to bring some of the best scientific minds together to figure out workable solutions for both sides.

All the funding dedicated to bringing the hammer down on anything DeSantis deems "woke" is doing what I fear is irreparable damage to the LGBTQ community — chipping away at years of progress with each cruel word and harsh legislative action.

Gabbi Tuft is a forerunner and pioneer in the transgender community, a professional athlete, keynote speaker, and fitness coach. Tuft has over 30 years of experience in the fitness industry and has coached mostly 1,500 cisgender women to success in the past 13 years.


Columnist and fitness coach Gabbi Tuft. Photo: Courtesy Gabbi Tuft

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