The divide between the beliefs of a majority of Americans who support LGBTQ+ equality and the actions of far-right state lawmakers grows even wider. More than three in four Americans (76%) favor laws protecting LGTBQ+ Americans from discrimination. Yet many lawmakers are chipping away at LGBTQ+ equality, increasing the risks to our community’s safety. Last week, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced the state would investigate the loving, affirming families of trans children as child abusers. This week, the investigations are already underway.
Terrified Texas parents are frantically creating “safety folders” and contingency plans, preparing their children for potential questioning by state officials. Anyone can report a family for suspicion of child abuse - an important provision because actual child abuse is a horrific crime. But the American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, Texas Pediatric Society and Texas Medical Association, as well as other medical professionals, child care advocates, educators and mental health experts, all unequivocally state that gender-affirming care is NOT child abuse. Loving your trans child and accepting them for who they authentically are is NOT child abuse. Yet under the directive from Gov. Abbott, anyone can report a family with a trans child as child abusers and the state must investigate.
Another consequence of this action is that it has pushed trans children and their families into hiding, forcing them to lower their public profiles and silence their voices. Families are canceling plans to speak out publicly, withdrawing op-eds and deleting public posts against the governor’s action out of fear the visibility would make them a target for politically-motivated child abuse reports.
HRC Texas State Director Rebecca Marques joined partner organizations and allies last week at a press conference on the steps of a Texas courthouse. The mother of a transgender child had been scheduled to speak about her family’s decision, a year in the making, to leave Texas. She was forced to cancel out of fear her family would be targeted as a result of her public appearance. She instead sent a statement to be read by Texas Freedom Network’s Marti Bier that included the following:
“It has taken a year of planning and significant resources to be able to [leave] and we have left feeling fortunate to at least have the means to flee our home and the ability to protect our child from our own government. So many families do not have the ability to leave and no one should ever be faced with the difficult decision to uproot their life to protect their children in America … but leaving is the only choice for our family. We are choosing to grieve the loss of our home instead of the loss of our child.”
In hopeful news, a judge in Travis County, Texas, issued a temporary restraining order last week that blocks the state’s child-welfare agency from investigating a family for child abuse because they provided gender-affirming medical care to their teen daughter. The family that was under investigation was the family of a state worker at that same agency. The ruling was in response to a lawsuit filed on behalf of the state worker’s family, and applies only to them. It could potentially lead to a statewide injunction, which would apply to all investigations. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights is encouraging Texans affected by Abbott’s directive to file complaints and is reminding healthcare providers that federal health privacy laws forbid disclosure of private medical information.
What’s happening to transgender children in Texas is horrific — and while the approach may be unique to Texas, the anti-trans animus is not. Transgender children are being targeted by state legislatures across the country. Alabama is on the precipice of passing its own law making it a felony to provide gender-affirming care to youth.
Anti-trans sports bans are moving particularly quickly. In total, more than 56 anti-trans sports bans are active in the 46 legislatures currently in session. Anti-trans sports bans have already been signed into law in South Dakota and Iowa, and one is awaiting the governor’s signature in Indiana.
Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah and Wisconsin are on the verge of passing anti-transgender bills into laws in the coming days. And Florida is expected to soon pass two bills that more broadly impact all LGBTQ+ youth.
The efforts of anti-LGBTQ+ legislators are relentless, and we must be tireless in our advocacy against them. When families themselves do not feel safe to speak, we must be even louder.
That’s why HRC’s Parents for Transgender Equality Council collected signatures from more than 7,000 parents and people across the country who condemn the avalanche of anti-transgender legislation moving in legislatures across the United States. They know it’s important to speak out and to continue speaking out. We must not stop - transgender children and their families are depending on us.
To take action against these bills in your state and beyond, visit hrc.im/ProtectTransKids.