On Feb. 21, Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a nonbinding, formal opinion declaring the performance of certain gender-affirming care procedures on children, including the prescribing of hormonal therapies, is “child abuse” under Texas law. Shortly after, Gov. Greg Abbott sent a letter to the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) calling for “prompt and thorough investigations” of any reported instances of Texas children receiving this care.
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Abbott’s letter also calls for all licensed professionals who have direct contact with children “who may be subject to such abuse” to report these instances. This directive would also provide criminal penalties for failure to report.
Rep. Jacey Jetton (R – Richmond) told State of Reform he supported the directive and Paxton’s opinion as a measure to protect children from a lifelong and life-altering decision.
“One thing that was made pretty clear from the medical professionals is that this is a journey that a child takes in trying to determine their gender, and this journey’s procedures can have lifelong impacts,” said Jetton. “Just as we prevent [children from making] those types of lifelong decisions until they’re an adult, I think it is very dangerous for us to consider, even with outside support or assistance, [allowing children to have] life-altering procedures.”
Adri Perez, policy and advocacy strategist for ACLU Texas, told State of Reform that even though Paxton’s opinion and Abbott’s directive are not legally binding and state law has not changed, they will still prove to be harmful for transgender youth and their families.
“The opinion and this letter are part of a continued attack on transgender youth in the state of Texas,” said Perez. “The level of intervention in this directive and in this opinion are an escalation on those attacks because they were not able to pass this legislation this past session.
It is intended to [scare parents out of supporting their kids] even if it is not legally binding, by scaring the parents who support their children, by scaring the doctors who provide care out of providing that care, and by emboldening the people in Texas to disagree with transgender youth existing, and to report them and remove them from the home.”
Several other advocacy and civil rights organizations in Texas have responded critically to Paxton and Abbott’s statements, including Equality Texas.
“All children deserve to grow up healthy and learn to take care of their bodies in a way that helps them live full, happy lives,” the organization’s statement said. “For transgender kids, this might include gender-affirming care that has been endorsed by pediatricians and proven to help kids’ mental health and future wellbeing.
Our position at Equality Texas has always been and will continue to be that we stand with every major, credible medical association in supporting age-appropriate, best-practice standards of healthcare for transgender youth and adults because that care is evidence-based, rooted in science and, quite literally, life-saving.”
Their statement went on to say the attorney general and governor are villainizing the LGBTQ+ community in the name of political gain, and referred to their comments as “disinformation” that could have a devastating effect on transgender youth and their families.
“Disinformation being spread about transgender people and their health care highlights, exaggerates, and imagines a non-existent problem as an urgent moral emergency that must be tackled right now–days before the primary election. Misconstruing the law and amplifying junk science to attack innocent children and their parents is cruel, beneath contempt, and could have a devastating effect on transgender youth and their families.”
Perez emphasized the consequences that could come out of investigating instances of gender-affirming care for children as child abuse. They said these consequences could include children being taken from their homes, or the parents of these children being placed under criminal charges and fired from their jobs.
They added that providing gender-affirming care to transgender youth would have significantly positive physical and behavioral health impacts.
“Supporting your transgender child is not child abuse. It’s the absolute opposite of that. The best thing you can do for a child or a community that is experiencing gender dysphoria is support them through age appropriate, medically necessary care …”
The Trevor Project reports that between Jan. 1 and Aug. 30, 2021, they received more than 10,800 crisis contacts from LGBTQ+ young people in Texas looking for help, and more than 36% of those crisis contacts came from transgender or non-binary youth. The organization’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health also found that 52% of transgender and nonbinary youth seriously considered suicide in the past year, and one in five actually attempted suicide.
ACLU Texas is currently involved in a lawsuit filed against Abbott’s directive in the Travis County district court last Tuesday by a Texas family and a psychologist.
“We will do absolutely everything in our power to ensure that transgender youth in the state of Texas will continue to have access to medically necessary, age-appropriate care to live their lives as who they truly are,” Perez emphasized. “Being transgender is not a crime.”