UF Health, a medical network affiliated with the University of Florida located in Gainesville and Jacksonville, boasted about helping a child with gender dysphoria undergo hormone blockers and surgeries in a testimonial on their website.
UF Health’s Youth Gender Program boasts of nationally recognized endocrinologists who specialize in administering pubertal suppression and cross-sex hormone medications to minors and connects children and their families with a host of resources that unquestioningly encourage medical transition for children. One testimonial on their website highlights a minor who, with the help of UF Health, received facial surgery, hormone blockers and a referral for an unspecified cross-sex surgery before turning 18.
The patient, referred to as “Hunter,” underwent hormone blocker injections and sperm cryopreservation as a minor upon adopting a transgender identity at age 15 after watching “I Am Jazz,” a show about a transgender child, according to a testimonial featured prominently on the Youth Gender Program’s website. Hunter received facial feminization surgery, which can include altering the hairline, shaving down the chin and jawbone or augmenting the lips and nose, upon turning 16 with the help of then-UF Health clinical psychologist Anyaliese Hancock-Smith, and was slated to undergo “gender affirmation surgery” in the summer of 2017.
“At the age of 15, Hunter was watching TLC’s transgender reality series, I am Jazz, when she realized she could no longer continue living uncomfortably in the wrong body. Hunter immediately ran into her mother’s room and told her she needed to be on puberty blocking medication,” the testimonial reads.
Hunter was 17 in April 2017, and it is unclear whether the adolescent turned 18 before the surgery; it’s also unclear precisely which surgery Hunter had and whether UF Health performed it or wrote a referral, though Hunter vaguely gives credit to UF Health.
“After meeting with Dr. Silverstein and being diagnosed with Gender Dysphoria, Hunter was prescribed hormone blocker injections and later underwent sperm cryopreservation, a procedure which would eventually allow her to produce biologic children if she wishes,” the post read. “Hunter now believes she looks on the outside like the gender she has always been on the inside, and she credits much of it to her team at UF Health.”
“Hunter now meets with clinical psychologist Anyaliese Hancock-Smith, Ph.D., who assisted Hunter in healthy development of gender identity and expression congruency. This included Hunter getting some facial feminization surgery for her 16th birthday,” the post continued. “Now seventeen years old, Hunter is preparing to have gender affirmation surgery in the summer of 2017, which will allow her to finally feel comfortable in her own skin. She hopes her story will inspire others to embrace their true selves.”
UF Health also included a quote from the patient encouraging others to go against their parents’ wishes when pursuing medical transitions.
“Your parents may not understand and may fight your transition, but this is the way you were born,” Hunter said in the testimonial. “Your authentic life is worth fighting for.”
UF’s Youth Gender Program was following about 50 children receiving puberty blockers and had about 200 patients total on hormones, according to data supplied to the Tampa Bay Times. Fewer than 50 patients in the practice had mastectomies, which are not performed on children under 16, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
The program collaborated with transgender activist group Equality Florida, a group that supports childhood gender transitions and has staunchly opposed efforts to limit those procedures for minors in Florida.
UF Health did not respond to dozens of requests for comment from the Daily Caller News Foundation, including numerous requests over phone, voicemail, and email for the institution’s age guidelines for gender-related procedures. UF Health also has yet to share records requested through Florida’s freedom of information law regarding its Youth Gender Program.
Many medical professionals criticize administering puberty blockers and performing sex change surgeries on minors, arguing that children can’t consent to the irreversible procedures and questioning their purported benefits. However, prominent medical organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics support affirming transgender identities through medical procedures, even for minors, and view the procedures as a way to improve adolescents’ mental health.
“All the up-to-date evidence shows that puberty blockers are neither safe nor reversible. The evidence shows that 98% of children who take puberty blockers go on to cross-sex hormones,” Stella O’Malley, an Irish psychotherapist and founder of the gender-critical organization Genspect, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “We are roughly 10 years into this large-scale experiment and already we have reports on issues with cognitive development, bone mineral density and fertility. It is only with class action suits, like that taken in the UK, will we see a full exploration of this issue.”
Detransitioners, people who regret undergoing medical gender transitions, are also speaking out against the procedures. Helena Kirshner, a young woman who took cross-sex hormones and socially transitioned to a male identity as a teenager, attributed her temporary trans identity to emotional struggles, peer influence and social media.
“The adolescent brain is in a developmental stage primed to incorporate experiences into the process of identity formation,” she wrote in a February Substack post. “At my first appointment, I was prescribed testosterone, and I would remain on this regimen for a year and a half. It had an extremely negative effect on my mental health, and I finally admitted what a disaster it had been when I was 19 … It has not been easy, and the whole experience seriously derailed my life in ways I could never have foreseen when I was that fifteen-year-old kid playing with pronouns on Tumblr.”
The Youth Gender Program offers consultation, psychotherapy and assessment of medical readiness for cross-sex hormone therapy, according to its website; though it does not list surgical procedures it provides for minors, the first item on its resource page is financing advice for “gender confirmation surgery.” Resources for transgender youth also include a guide to “tucking,” or using tape to hide one’s penis, along with various activist groups including GLAAD which are vocal proponents of childhood medical transitions.
The Youth Gender Program claims its services are consistent with World Professional Association For Transgender Health (WPATH) guidelines; WPATH’s most recent standards of care do not list any age restrictions for minors to be eligible for cross-sex procedures including surgeries, and the organization is generally supportive of adolescent medical transition.
Dr. Michael Haller, chief of pediatric endocrinology at the University of Florida, publicly criticized detransitioner Chloe Cole on Twitter in August after she voiced regret about undergoing a medical transition as a minor and criticized the interventionist approach to gender dysphoria that Haller endorses. Cole, who underwent a “gender-affirming” double-mastectomy at age 15 along with cross-sex hormones that permanently altered her voice, no longer identifies as transgender and advocates against sex change procedures for minors.
“She states she was ‘rushed’ through care but notes her first endocrinologist actually said ‘no’ to rapid transition,” Haller wrote. “She sought alternative avenues for treatment. She then speaks as if her case should justify full scale elimination access for all trans patients.”
“You chose internet notoriety over anything that will ever help patients,” he wrote in another tweet.
“At this point, Dr. Haller has a creepy obsession with me. He’s a corrupt Dr. and Prof. who recommends children for double mastectomies and cross sex hormones. Dr. Haller exhibits abusive habits towards outspoken victims of gender care,” Cole wrote.
Haller initially agreed to an interview with the DCNF before cancelling and instructing the DCNF to direct questions to an outside organization, the American Academy of Pediatrics, which also did not respond to a request for comment.