Metro Weekly

Florida Republican Introduces “What Is a Woman?” Bill

A proposed bill in Florida would prohibit state entities from acknowledging or affirming transgender people's gender identities.

Florida welcome sign – Photo Illustration: Todd Franson; Original image: Gwyn Goodrow, via Dreamstime

A Republican lawmaker in Florida filed an anti-transgender bill that would mandate sex-segregated spaces and effectively write transgender people’s existence out of the law.

State Rep. Dean Black (R-Yulee) introduced the bill, also known as the “What is a Woman Act,” to define in state law that a person’s gender cannot differ from their assigned sex at birth.

Under the bill, a person’s sex is defined as either male or female based on their reproductive anatomy, chromosomal makeup, naturally occurring sex hormones, and internal and external genitalia as it was at birth.

Gendered terms, including “female,” “mother,” “woman,” and “girl,” are reserved for people whose bodies are designed to produce ova, and “male,” “father,” “man,” and “boy” are reserved for people whose bodies are designed to produce sperm.

The bill declares that all references to gender in state code “must be deemed to refer solely to sex” as defined by this law. It also proffers that “‘equal,’ with respect to sex, does not mean ‘same’ or ‘identical'” — a way to circumvent court rulings or federal laws that grant equal access to transgender individuals. 

Black’s bill asserts that restrooms, changing facilities, shelters, jails, and rape crisis centers shall be sex-segregated, and cannot have taken action against them for turning away trans individuals whose biological sex does not match the sex for whom the facility is designated. 

The proposed law would require health insurers that provide coverage for gender-affirming care also to cover the cost of any medical care to assist a person in detransitioning, or stopping that care to return to identifying according to their assigned sex at birth.

Health insurers will also be required to offer plans that do not cover gender-affirming care — a sop to employers who don’t wish to affirm trans employees’ gender identity. Additionally, all insurers in the state must cover the cost of conversion therapy, which is permitted in the state thanks to the repeal of local pro-LGBTQ ordinances. 

The proposed law also requires school districts collecting vital statistics or conducting school climate surveys to identify students’ sex as determined by their assigned sex at birth.

And, for adults, it prohibits any trans resident from possessing a driver’s license or state ID cards that affirm their gender identity, rather than listing their assigned sex at birth.

The law would require applicants for driver’s licenses or state ID cards to submit an affidavit that certifies that the sex specified on the application for a new or replacement card matches their assigned sex at birth. If the department determines that the affidavit is false, a person can have their license revoked.

Those provisions also mean that any transgender person who refuses to affirm the state’s preferred language by denying the existence of their gender will not be permitted to obtain a driver’s license or state ID. This would effectively prevent them from driving in a state that largely lacks public transportation and deny them admittance to venues, prevent them from purchasing alcohol, hinder them from renting a vehicle, or do any other activities requiring proof of identity.

Black defended his bill, telling Jacksonville’s WFOX-TV, “Think of locker rooms, sports. There are all sorts of things where the sex matters, and it should matter and again, a small group of people who are radical ideologues should not be able to blur those lines.”

Critics say the bill effectively erases transgender identity from all aspects of the law and requires transgender people to identify how others define them, instead of how they define themselves.

“It is a mean-spirited bill that is meant to bully transgender people out of public life and make them leave the State of Florida entirely,” former State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D-Orlando), a senior policy advisor for LGBTQ organization Equality Florida, told WFOX.

While Black has touted the bill’s provisions on health insurance for so-called detransitioners as essential, claiming that many transgender-identifying people stop identifying as trans and come to regret any medical interventions they pursued, Smith said recent studies have found rates of post-surgical regret among transgender individuals are as low as one percent or less. 

Smith also balked at the law’s provision requiring coverage for conversion therapy, calling it a “fraudulent debunked practice that tries to convince transgender people that they are not transgender.”

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