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‘Children will lose their lives.’ Jazz Jennings’ mom joins fight against proposed Florida transgender medical ban

South Florida Sun Sentinel - 2/3/2020

The mother of South Florida reality television star and LGBTQ advocate Jazz Jennings is urging lawmakers to withdraw a bill that would ban medical treatment for transgender youth.

Jeanette Jennings, a Broward County resident, traveled to Tallahassee on Monday to deliver a message to the Florida Legislature: The proposed ban would be devastating to young Floridians like her 19-year-old daughter, a transgender woman who has been accepted into Harvard University.

“When it comes to hormones and medical care, we are talking about life and death," she said. “Children will lose their lives if they do not get the medical care that they need.”

The bill, which was discussed in a House committee Monday, would criminalize hormone treatment and sex-reassignment surgery for transgender children.

Rep. Anthony Sabatini, R-Howey-in-the Hills, and Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, are behind the legislation. They are two of the Legislature’s most conservative members.

Treatments are being given to children when they are too young to understand the consequences, and not enough research has been done to show what the long-term effects could be, Sabatini said.

“It is the wild west,” he said. “There are no real guidelines. There are no real laws. ... This bill is really about bringing up a red flag and showing some skepticism about what is happening in this country.”

Physicians who treat transgender youth say hormone therapy can reduce suicidal thoughts and save lives.

Dr. Janet Silverstein, a pediatric endocrinologist at UF Health, said the bill would compromise the health and safety of transgender youth by tying the hands of physicians.

“Research has consistently shown affirming trans youth in their gender identity improves health outcomes,” she said.

Doctors who violate the ban could be charged with a felony offense punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

State legislators in Colorado, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina and South Dakota have filed similar bills.

Jennings said her daughter is thriving because she was able to receive treatment after consulting with her family and doctors.

“She has a wonderful life because she is living in the body that she wants,” Jennings said.

Skyler Swisher can be reached at sswisher@sunsentinel.com, 561-243-6634 or @SkylerSwisher

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