August 1, 2016
The State of Florida has an obligation for all the children in its care, including those who experience gender dysphoria. Every child needs to be safe and free from bullying and to receive assistance dealing with their unique challenges. However, the rule goes too far in failing to consider the well-being of other children in a residential facility. Many of these children are victims of abuse, and may not be well-served by sharing a household or even a bedroom with someone who “identifies” as the same gender, but remains biologically different. The rule makes no provision for such cases.
The revised proposed rule by the Department of Children and Families that treats a child’s “gender identity” as the child’s “sex” is deeply disturbing. Children with gender identity challenges deserve compassion, sensitivity, and respect. All of these can be expressed without infringing on legitimate concerns about privacy and security on the part of the other young people in these homes. Like the recent Title IX guidance from the U.S. Department of Justice (May 13), the rule does not even attempt to achieve this balance.
Biological sex and the socio-cultural role of sex (gender) can be distinguished but not separated. We remain hopeful that the state of Florida will make room for more just and compassionate approaches and policies in this sensitive area, in order to serve the good of all children, as well as the common good. We will be studying the rule further to understand the full extent of its implications.