Adm. Levine, Congressman Soto visit The Center Orlando, advocate for LGBTQ youth

Adm. Rachel Levine (L) speaks on LGBTQ youth health care at the :LGBT+ Center Orlando as Congressman Darren Soto looks on. (Photo by Charlotte Skipper)

ORLANDO | Adm. Rachel Levine, M.D., Assistant Secretary for Health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and Congressman Darren Soto spoke at the LGBT+ Center Orlando June 27, after meeting with representatives from the Zebra Coalition, to advocate for LGBTQ youth and gender affirmation treatment in Florida.

“Gender affirmation treatment is medical care, gender affirmation treatment is mental health care, and literally, gender affirmation treatment is suicide prevention care,” said Levine.

Levine said state leaders such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis are stigmatizing the LGBTQ community through politically motivated actions including the “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” bill, taxing gender affirmation treatment and limiting Medicaid opportunities for individuals.

Due to this, Soto says the health and freedoms of LGBTQ Floridians are at risk. He said now is the time to push against the state legislature’s most recent rulings and stand with the LGBTQ community.

“We’re going to continue to do everything we can to fight for the freedoms of all Floridians to be themselves, to have autonomy in who they are, and to be able to seek the healthcare that they need,” said Soto.

Youth that are a part of the LGBTQ community are facing significant bullying and discrimination in schools across the state, Levine pointed out. Due to this, she said gender diverse and transgender youth have higher rates of depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts compared to their cisgender and heterosexual peers. In order to combat this issue, Levine said the answer is better access to gender affirmation treatment.

“It is egregious that there have been statements put out in Florida that young people should not have access to that type of care and that type of medically necessary treatment,” she said.

Levine added gender affirmation treatment is widely accepted by medical professionals within the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, Florida children’s hospitals and multiple national health associations.

Jen Cousins, Orange County resident and parent of a nonbinary child, said she sees her child’s friends and family members scared for the future of her child’s wellbeing.

“I think it’s very unfair of our governor, who claims to be pro-life, to want to put LGBTQ+ children’s lives in danger by these laws that he signed into effect,” said Cousins.

Cousins said the key to quelling attacks on the LGBTQ community is education. She said the “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” bill creates a stigma for children in kindergarten through third grade to potentially see LGBTQ individuals as something to fear, which in turn will harm the community significantly.

“We have to stop demonizing anybody under the LGBTQ+ umbrella,” said Cousins. “They are people, they are our families, our neighbors, our friends, our coworkers. They exist in the world, and they always have, and we have to stop acting like they’re different from any other one of us.”

Levine said new guidelines protecting gender affirmation treatment and individuals in the LGBTQ community of Florida will be emerging in the coming months.

“I’m a positive optimistic person, and I think that we will not let them erase us, and we will be successful,” she said.

More in Health

See More