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I'm a transgender college student, and Ron DeSantis just requested data on trans healthcare from my clinic. I'm worried about what the state will do next.

By Andy Pham,

2023-03-15

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  • I'm a transgender college student at the University of South Florida.
  • During my freshman year, I used the campus health facilities to get hormone-replacement therapy.
  • I felt numb when Ron DeSantis requested data on trans healthcare at campus health facilities.

On January 11, Gov. Ron DeSantis ' administration issued a memo to publicly funded universities in Florida requesting anonymous and aggregate data on trans healthcare at campus health facilities.

In mid-February, University of South Florida officials indicated they would hand over the information , detailing the number of people who received gender-affirming care through university facilities by age and year.

I am one of those people.

I have received excellent healthcare on campus, including gender-affirming hormone-replacement therapy

I'm a 21-year-old fourth-year biomedical-sciences student at the University of South Florida. As the most senior officer in USF's Trans+ Student Union and an aspiring physician, I've met countless trans, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming people on campus.

My gender identity crystallized when I was about 16, which is when I chose my current name and wore my brother's old clothes. For much of my adolescence, I was clinically depressed. Near the end of my freshman year, I sought hormone-replacement therapy — which would entail taking testosterone to develop more-masculine features — through the University of South Florida's health services, beginning a months-long intake process safeguarded by trained professionals.

A team consisting of a counselor, a psychologist, a pediatrician, and an internist jointly agreed on my testosterone prescription. I was informed of the benefits, risks, and side effects of HRT . I consented.

My mother, a registered nurse, oversaw my first injection. My blood work was carefully monitored to ensure I received an appropriate dosage. Every week since my first injection, I have self-administered testosterone cypionate.

At each step, I was never pressured to continue or stop. This is the diligently maintained standard of care for all trans and nonbinary people seeking gender-affirming healthcare at USF.

HRT has helped me usher in immense personal growth; it helped me emerge from a very long, dark tunnel. My friends and family tell me that I laugh and smile more, that I've found my voice, and that I'm more myself. Over two years later, I feel better than I ever have — mentally, physically, and socially.

I felt horrified when I looked at DeSantis' memo

It was with trepidation that I opened DeSantis' January memo , which requested that public universities deliver aggregate data on medical services provided to patients who received gender-affirming care through university public hospitals and health clinics . As I scanned through the memo, I saw surgical procedures enumerated line by line. My unease mounted into quiet horror.

Many students were confused when we tried to educate them about the memo. We needed to clarify no personally identifiable information would be reported; the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act would not be violated.

Instead, the DeSantis administration was requesting data on the number of people who received gender-dysphoria diagnoses, hormone prescriptions, and specific surgical procedures — each broken down by year and patient age. I believe this still presents a privacy risk.

In particular, certain surgeries are extraordinarily rare in our age group. I know just two USF students who underwent any kind of "bottom" surgery. Such a tiny data pool, separated by year and age, might make it possible to identify individual patients despite anonymization.

Editor's note: A spokesperson at USF told Insider, "As a state university, USF has an obligation to be responsive to requests from our elected officials. However, the university did not provide information that identifies an individual patient or violates patient privacy laws."

Gender-affirming healthcare is safe and often necessary

Gender-affirming healthcare, including hormone therapy and surgery, is often essential to the well-being of trans people, though not all of us desire it. Access to HRT is associated with decreases in rates of depression and suicidality .

The safety, efficacy, and necessity of gender-affirming healthcare have been noted by major US medical groups, including the American Medical Association , the American Academy of Pediatrics , and the American Psychological Association .

In the January memo, the DeSantis administration specifically sought data regarding the healthcare of trans people — even though all the medications and many of the surgeries used to facilitate our transitions are available to cisgender people. For example, hormones used in gender-affirming care have a variety of uses. Estrogen is often marketed to postmenopausal cis women and testosterone to hypogonadal cis men.

I fear the administration is taking steps toward banning trans healthcare across Florida — for trans patients of all ages. Florida has already banned gender-affirming care for minors .

As both a patient and a premed student, all this weighs heavily on my mind

As a trans person in Florida, I've witnessed our rights get eroded over the past decade. I believe DeSantis and his administration are setting a dangerous precedent.

Ultimately, trans people want the same civil rights that many cisgender people take for granted. We want bodily autonomy, informed consent, and safe treatments for ourselves and our intersex peers.

I've witnessed my trans peers smile when a passing classmate calls out their chosen name, when they run a hand through their new buzz cut, and when they slip into a dress for the first time.

We are healthier and happier as our true selves. Let us live our ordinary lives.

Editor's note: DeSantis addressed his reasoning for requesting university healthcare data at a news conference, according to the Tampa Bay Times . " These are very young people, and you have all kinds of things that go on in those years," DeSantis said in February, according to the news outlet. "Most of it resolves itself by the time they become adults, but the way to deal with that is to provide whatever counseling is needed, not to hack off their body parts."

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