- Amanda Denis’s daughter, Olivia, came out as trans when she was 4-and-a-half years old.
- The family has lived in Florida for 10 years. But a wave of anti-trans bills prompted them to move.
- They’re planning on moving to Minnesota, a sanctuary state for trans people.
In the past 10 years, Amanda Denis and her husband Travis have built a tight-knit community in northwest Florida, where their 8-year-old daughter Olivia can thrive and find support as a trans girl.
But the Denis family now feels that their lives in Florida are about to be upended. A bill the state’s Senate passed on Tuesday, which appears all but likely to be passed by a Republican-controlled House, could put limits on gender-affirming care for minors and potentially punish parents who help provide the treatment.
If passed, Florida’s SB 254 would grant the state’s courts temporary emergency jurisdiction over custody enforcement proceedings if a parent has supported a child’s gender-affirming care. It’s left parents of trans children like the Denises fearing that the state could one day have a say on the custody of their kids. It would also limit Olivia’s future access to healthcare. The bill would restrict funding and protections for healthcare providers that offer gender-affirming care to trans patients.
Amanda told Insider she and her family feel their only recourse is to move out of the Sunshine State in six months and head to Minnesota — one of two US “sanctuary states” where lawmakers have vowed that trans kids will always have access to gender-affirming medical care, while shielding parents from child abuse investigations and custody battles for supporting their children.
“I thought the worst they would do is restrict gender-affirming care,” Amanda said. But the mention of custody made her and Travis consider the monumental move.
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Olivia’s mental health was in danger
Before she came out, Olivia was barely four years old and suffering from mental health issues.
“She was a pretty severe self-harmer,” Amanda said. “She was on Zoloft for mood.”
One night, Olivia told her mother, “My brain tells me I’m a girl.” Initially, Amanda was confused. But her husband, Travis, was unfazed.
“He was able to calm me down,” she said. “About four days later, my husband took Olivia to get a whole new wardrobe. He felt it was important for him to do that for his daughter.”
Three months later, “we were able to take her off of all the mood medication. She never wavered. We just follow her lead,” Amanda said.
Today, Olivia is 8 years old and thriving. She and her two siblings, Elijah, 10, and Amelia, 6, are homeschooled by their mother.
The Denises put roots down in Florida. Olivia has a best friend named Carter, whose mother is Amanda’s best friend, too. The children’s grandparents also live nearby. But looking ahead at legislation like SB 254 has changed things. With their lease running out in August, the family decided to head to Minnesota.
SB 254 threatens to remove transgender kids from the custody of their supportive parents
On March 3, Florida state Sen. Clay Yarborough introduced SB 254, a bill that could remove transgender children from the custody of their supportive parents, specifically parents who give their children under the age of 18 gender-affirming healthcare.
Gender-affirming healthcare includes hormone replacement therapy, like estrogen, testosterone, and puberty blockers, as well as gender-affirming surgery, which is extremely rare for anyone under 18, and mental health care. Studies have shown that providing this care is linked to lower rates of anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideations for trans youth.
SB 254 also threatens to revoke the medical licenses of practitioners who provide gender-affirming care and places a ban on using state funds to provide the treatment. This would prohibit universities or health insurance plans for government workers from using public funds to provide gender-affirming care. Yarborough did not respond to Insider’s request for comment.
Florida’s House is considering a similar bill that prohibits public expenditure on gender-affirming care, meaning it wouldn’t be covered under state health insurance plans.
The bills expand on Gov. Ron DeSantis’ recent actions against gender-affirming care for youth. His administration in June pushed the state Board of Medicine to ban medicaid coverage of puberty blockers, hormone therapy, and surgery for patients of all ages. In February, the Board of Medicine expanded on the restrictions and banned gender-affirming care for minors, including in clinical trials.
“When they say ‘gender-affirming care,’ what they mean a lot of the times is you’re castrating a young boy, you’re sterilizing a young girl, you’re doing mastectomies for these very young girls,” DeSantis said in a May 2022 interview on Fox News contributor Lisa Boothe’s podcast. He has also painted gender-affirming care as “mutilation of minors.”
DeSantis did not respond to Insider’s request for comment. In a previous story about SB 254, representatives for DeSantis declined to comment on SB 254 until it makes its way to the Governor’s desk.
Anti-trans legislation’s affect on 1.3 million trans children and their families
According to the LGBT Movement Advancement Project, there 1.3 million trans children under the age of 18, but only 27% of them have families that are very supportive.
ACLU of Florida said SB 254 “empowers the state to investigate families” who provide their children with gender-affirming care and “criminalizes” parents and doctors for providing the treatment.
Olivia is only 8 years old, so it will be years before she needs hormone replacement therapy or potential surgeries. Amanda and her husband planned on traveling out of state when the time comes to give Olivia gender-affirming healthcare. They even planned on moving to Baltimore, Maryland, so they can stay relatively close to their family and friends. However, SB 254 changed the Denis’ plans drastically.
Amanda is aiming to raise $10,000 to be able to afford their move
Together, Amanda and Travis make less than $50,000 a year to support a family of five. Travis is an Air Force veteran who works remotely for an insurance company, while Amanda works part-time at the childcare center of a local gym.
“Moving is not something we ever financially planned on,” Amanda said.
The Denis family currently rent their home in Florida, and their lease is up in August. Though it is unclear if the bill will pass, Amanda wants to move when their lease is up.
Amanda and her husband each have credit scores in the 500s, which will make apartment-hunting in Minnesota even harder.
Since the couple doesn’t have savings or a lot of discretionary income, Amanda made a GoFundMe page to ask her community for support during this time.
“Olivia has two very large trans flags, but we cannot fly them publicly,” Amanda said. “It’s very important for me to be able to find a neighborhood where my daughter can be proud and not hide.”