Florida Republicans Move To 'Cover' Conversion Therapy Torture

by Jackie Llanos, Florida Phoenix
January 22, 2024

Florida House Republicans approved a proposal Monday that would require health insurance companies providing gender-affirming care for transgender people to also cover therapies to affirm a person’s sex assigned at birth — otherwise known as conversion therapy.

State Rep. Douglas Michael Bankson. Credit: FL House of Representatives.

The sponsor of HB 1639, GOP Rep. Douglas Michael Bankson representing parts of Orange and Seminole counties, said he doesn’t intend to make anyone choose to reverse transition procedures but that he wants to make that choice more accessible.

The legislation mainly focuses on mandating coverage of detransition treatments to reverse the process of gender-affirming care such as hormone replacement therapy. However, Bankson also plans to swap gender for sex assigned at birth in state driver’s licenses and IDs.

“We want to make sure that those who have not found the answers that they’re looking for, have the opportunity to go back and detransition and seek the wholeness that they’re looking for,” Bankson said during the bill’s hearing Monday on the Select Committee on Health Innovation.

What is conversion therapy?

Bankson backed away from using the term “conversion therapy,” but Orlando Democratic Rep. Anna Eskamani pressed him, saying conversion therapy has been widely debunked.

The American Psychiatric Organization stands against such therapies that don’t respect the identities of people with different gender expressions. Instead, Bankson said gender dysphoria is a new challenge. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines conversion therapy as the use of any of various methods in an attempt to change a person’s gender identity to correspond to the sex the person was identified as having at birth.

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“We’re in the beginnings of this challenge, and there are those that debunk the debunkers. And we go back and forth and that’s part of the problem. We’re fighting in this area, rather than allowing individuals to pursue that which they believe is the best route for them to pursue,” Bankson said.

This is what the bill states: “A health insurance policy that is delivered or issued to a person in the state may not prohibit the coverage of mental health or therapeutic services to treat a person’s perception that his or her sex, as defined in s. 456.001, is inconsistent with such person’s sex at birth by affirming the insured’s sex.”

Although he claimed his proposal is aimed at helping people get coverage to detransition, Bankson said no one had told him they had problems doing so. In fact, the only person testifying during the Monday meeting who said they had detransitioned spoke out against the bill as did multiple members and allies of the LGBTQ+ community. Only one community member testified in support of the bill.

‘Potentially dangerous’

Lilith Black said they started to transition as a trans woman when they were young before understanding their gender expression as nonbinary. They said that they were able to use gender-affirming care to get back to a place where they felt comfortable with their body.

“First of all, it’s dismissive of our entire community that we are not even remotely being considered in legislation that directly affects us. I wish I could say I was surprised, but I have been here before and we’ve seen similar bills passed despite lengthy debate on whether or not they’re even constitutional,” Black told Florida Phoenix. “So, it’s just overall extremely unfortunate that so much work is being done without considering people that it defects.”

They continued: “Expansion upon the need for conversion therapy for detransitioners is not only unfounded, but it’s potentially dangerous.”

Lawmakers’ definition of sex

Republican Rep. Chase Tramont, representing parts of Brevard and Volusia counties, introduced an amendment to the bill defining sex as either male or female designation based on reproductive role, as indicated by sex chromosomes, naturally occurring sex hormones and internal and external genitalia present at birth. The amendment passed.

Community members also bashed Bankson for referring to reproductive or sexual anatomies that don’t strictly align with what is considered to be female or male as anomalies. “For those who deal with anomalies within their body, there’s a clear medical choice that is made,” he said.

“I would also like to mention that my transition saved my life. I do not need to detransition to be whole. Now, when I am living as my most authentic self I am whole. As an intersex person, I am not an anomaly; as a trans masculine person, I am not chemically castrating myself,” Kyle Moore testified during the committee meeting. “Saying that someone isn’t whole because they are seeking to transition or because they have transitioned and calling someone who is biologically intersex an anomaly is disgusting and dehumanizing.”

Democrat Michele Rayner, representing parts of Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, pointed out flaws within the bill including that the Florida Legislature has previously shut down coverage mandates for insurance providers and that it has no Senate companion bill. There is, however, another House bill (HB 1233) trying to do some of the same things as Bankson’s proposal.

“The concern that I have is that even yet and still in the face of the very people that are being harmed, we are not taking a beat. We’re not stopping. … I still am yet unclear about what is the compelling state interest. There’s a lot of things I can abide by, but what I cannot and will not abide by is an attack on the transgender and nonbinary community,” Rayner said. “I cannot. y’all know this about me. I cannot, and I won’t abide by it.”

Florida Phoenix is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Florida Phoenix maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Diane Rado for questions: info@floridaphoenix.com. Follow Florida Phoenix on Facebook and Twitter.

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