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'Evil in this world,' Florida's transgender health bill lies in limbo

Trans flag
Ted Eytan
Creative Commons License
Trans flag

Transgender couples are considering leaving Florida while state Republicans argue about the language of an anti-gender-affirming care bill.

Sawyer Carnecchia, 27 of Orlando, and his boyfriend Connor Dolly, 21, of Orlando, are transgender men. They recently decided to move to Georgia for fear that they may lose access to hormonal treatment and the negative attitudes state leaders have shown toward the trans community.

“I've seen a lot of panic amongst some of my friends, and members of my community, that are recognizing that a lot of their rights are being taken away from them, or will be taken away from them soon, probably,” Carnecchia said.

'Evil in this world'

In April, Rep. Randy Fine defended a bill he cosponsored that would prohibit children and teens from receiving gender-affirming therapy procedures.
"There is evil in this world," the Brevard Republican said several times in reference to doctors performing gender-affirming therapeutic procedures, such as hormonal therapy and puberty blockers, to treat gender dysphoria — which is the marked incongruence between a person's experienced or expressed gender and the one they were assigned at birth, according to the National Library of Medicine.

The House voted favorably 82 to 31.

"Mutilating and castrating children is evil," Fine said. "It makes sense. A kid going through puberty is having brain development. Our brains are developing through childhood. So the notion that you can give someone a drug to stop nature from occurring... Puberty is not a disease."

However, the bill now faces trouble in the twilight hours of the current session.

Brevard County Rep. Randy Fine defends HB 1421, a bill he sponsored, that would prohibit children from receiving gender-affirming therapeutic procedures.
The Florida Channel
Brevard County Rep. Randy Fine defends HB 1421, a bill he sponsored, that would prohibit children from receiving gender-affirming therapeutic procedures.

The House bill, Gender Clinical Intervention, and the Senate bill, Treatments of Sex Reassignment, both passed through the Republican-held supermajority legislative bodies. The bills are too similar in language to both move on. Meaning the House and Senate must agree to adopt one. One key difference in the House bill is a line that would prevent trans-adults from receiving coverage in gender-affirming procedures from private insurance.

"The Senate has said they're deeply uncomfortable with that kind of government overreach language," said Bradon Wolf, a spokesman with Equality Florida.

If a compromise is not reached before the end of Friday, neither bill will move on to Governor Ron DeSantis. So far, the bill has not been scheduled to be heard.

That being the case, Fine is confident a deal will be struck.

"If I was a betting man, I would bet we will pass something that includes everything that the two chambers agree on," Fine said. "I do expect this to pass the bill. It's just too important for us not to and I think everybody agrees on that."

Wolf disagrees.

"Randy Fine is not wrong. There is evil in this world and it is evil to strip children of necessary life-saving health care," Wolf said.

Living Trans in Florida

Connor Dolly moved to Orlando from New Jersey in 2020 to attend Full Sail University. Dolly feels that since he's moved to Florice the state has changed.

"I think, up until recently, the hate that nonqueer people in Florida have for queer people was very, I would say hidden in a lot of places," he said.

Now Dolly said he does a double-take at gas stations after being openly harassed for being a transgender man. He thinks some of the rhetoric in Tallahassee, regarding bills targeted at the trans community, has trickled down to Florida residents granting a license of disrespect.

Dolly first started taking hormones two years ago and has felt more at ease in his body. However, he's uncomfortable thinking about his wallet considering the Gender Clinical Intervention bill has lines prohibiting private insurance from paying for gender-affirming care. Dolly already pays a lot for hormones with insurance.

"I pay $185 a month. And before insurance, my bill is $400. After insurance, it's 85. So I would be paying $595 a month if I did if I didn't have insurance," he said. "It's already hard to find a surgeon in general. And now to think about at some point it's going to be unattractive or people won't be able to get surgery is really upsetting to me."

Connor Dolly, 21 of Orlando
Connor Dolly, 21 of Orlando

As a result, he's interested in moving to Georgia along with Carnecchia. The latter only recently came out as a transgender man on Mar. 2, Carnecchia's birthday, partly because of how Florida politics have been playing out aggressively toward the transgender community, Carnecchia said.

"If things are going to be this dire, I may as well live my truth," Carnecchia said. "I may as well have it all out there. If I'm gonna go down, I may as well go down swinging."

While Carnecchia's coming out was recent, being trans was not new. He's always felt that way since he was a child, Carnecchia said.

"The lens through which I viewed gender was very rigid growing up and I had nothing to do with those feelings except to try to push them away," he said. "And so for about 20 or so years, I did. This year is really kind of the first step that I've taken in actually allowing me to publicly live and express the things that I have felt inside for so long."

Carnecchia, a lifetime Floridian, grew up in Lady Lake with a conservative background. Carnecchia said his family has not supported his coming out and has broken ties with him.

"I've had a very rough journey with my family," he said.

Sawyer Carnecchia.jpg
Joe Mario Pedersen
Sawyer Carnecchia, 27 of Orlando

Both Dolly and Carnecchia fear what they're leaving behind in Florida as a boiling point for the trans community appears to be surfacing. In particular, they're fearful for children who have not yet come out.

"My first thought is that we are going to lose kids," Carnecchia said. "I'm not going to say no one wants to talk about it, but not enough people want to talk about the fact that the suicide rates amongst trans youth are exponentially higher than those of their peers."

Gender-affirming care & children

The National Library of Medicine reports 86 percent of transgender children report feelings of suicide.

Rep. Fine agrees the number is a problem, but believes it speaks to a larger issue.

"We can see it playing out in our society with you know, increasing mental health issues, increasing suicides, shootings of schools. When you rock the foundation of what it means to be a child it creates problems," he said. "They can deny science, but there are X chromosomes and there are Y chromosomes, and there are only two genders, and they're men and they're women. So I understand that (gender dysphoria) is a serious illness that we need to deal with. I feel bad for these folks."

Fine said his Gender Clinical bill exists to protect children from "evil" doctors who would give children unnecessary gender-affirming procedures, referencing Miami plastic surgeon Dr. Sidhbh Gallagher. Her practice was under fire last year after many took issue with her social media channels focused on teenagers for breast removal surgery.

Fine also said the bill was based in part on the decision to close Tavistock — the world’s largest pediatric gender clinic in the U.K. after numerous challenges rose to the clinic’s recommendations for gender-affirming therapies. Some challenges claimed hormone therapies led to children developing bone density and mental health issues.

The Society For Evidence-Based Gender Medicine— an organization made up of international researchers and against gender-affirming care — supported the decision to close the clinic stating "there is insufficient evidence to justify the general clinical use of puberty suppression or cross-sex hormone use in youth experiencing gender dysphoria."

However, gender-affirming therapy is recommended by major scientific pillars such as the World Health Organization, the Endocrine Society, and theWorld Professional Association for Transgender Health.

The Florida Legislature

While the Senate still has not scheduled a reading for the anti-gender-affirming care bills, the Senate did on Wednesday read and passed the Facility Requirements Based on Sex bill or "the bathroom bill," as it's popularly known. It would restrict trans-people from entering the gendered bathroom they identify with and instead require them to use the facility that matches their biological gender or face legal consequences.

That bill is now on its way to Gov. DeSantis to be signed into law. After which, it is expected to take effect July 1.

Wolf has followed that bill closely, as well as others regarding the trans community.

"We're going to look back on this and be embarrassed by these leaders who kowtow to you know, one man and his presidential ambitions," he said.

No matter what happens regarding gender-affirming care Carnecchia and Dolly are focused on leaving the state they no longer feel safe in. Carnecchia, in particular, is leaving with a heavy heart having a love for the oak-lined roads he grew up around. He wishes Florida leaders could sympathize with transgender people.

"Trans is not something that you wake up one day you decide to be," he said. "Being trans, in this world is not something that any sane person would choose. We're not walking into this lifestyle, because it's fun, or it's interesting, or it's a cool new trend. It is coming from a place of us trying to live our lives just as authentically as the next person."

Corrected: May 15, 2023 at 11:53 AM EDT
A previous version of this story inaccurately reported that Dr. Sidhbh Gallagher’s office was permanently closed. Her practice remains open.

Originally from South Florida, Joe Mario came to Orlando to attend the University of Central Florida where he graduated with degrees in Radio & Television Production, Film, and Psychology. He worked several beats and covered multimedia at The Villages Daily Sun but returned to the City Beautiful as a reporter for the Orlando Sentinel where he covered crime, hurricanes, and viral news. Joe Mario has too many interests and not enough time but tries to focus on his love for strange stories in comic books and horror movies. When he's not writing he loves to run in his spare time.
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