Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has issued an anti-transgender, anti-family order to the Department of Family and Protective Services, demanding that professionals working with trans children subject them and their families to invasive, dangerous state intervention. There is already a legal challenge by the parents of a 16-year-old transgender Texas girl who allege that the state is already investigating them.
Using a non-binding and incorrect legal opinion from embattled Texas attorney general Ken Paxton, Abbott claims that issuing gender-affirming care to transgender children and teens constitutes child abuse under state law. No court anywhere in the United States has found this to be true.
In his letter Abbott’s calls on “licensed professionals who have direct contact with children — including doctors, nurses and teachers — to report instances of such abuse with criminal penalties for those who fail to report.” While this order has “no legal effect” according to the ACLU, the result will still be a chilling effect and a de facto green light for doctors, teachers, and other personnel who work with children to harass and ruin the lives of families with trans children.
This crass transphobic intimidation protects no one from actual abuse and rather seeks to withhold life-saving treatment from an already marginalized and vulnerable population. It is the latest move in a long line of attacks on transgender people, following the failure of the anti-trans Senate Bill 1646 along with a litany of other bigoted bills last year.
The real science behind gender-affirming care
The legal opinion issued by Paxton and the order directed by Abbott contradicts all established practices for medical care.
Abbott claims that “abuse” includes “subjecting” children and teens to the “administration of puberty-blocking drugs or supraphysiologic doses of testosterone or estrogen,” the latter of which is commonly referred to as Hormone Replacement Therapy. By using the word “subjecting,” Abbott and his fellow anti-trans politicians falsely claim that children are being given these treatments against their will. In reality, transgender people of all ages have the first and final say in transitioning to their true gender, and very few choose to reverse the process. All transgender people deserve to have complete control over the process.
Transgender and non-binary individuals experience anxiety and depression at nearly 10 times the rate of their cisgender (meaning “comfortable with their assigned gender”) counterparts and attempt suicide at alarming rates — 50.8 percent of trans male teens, 29.9 percent of trans female teens, and 41.8 percent of non-binary teens have attempted suicide.
Children allowed to socially transition to their more authentic selves are statistically shown to have comparable levels of self-worth and depression to their cisgender counterparts. Research also shows lower suicidal ideation and behavior when a trans child’s chosen name is consistently respected and used. In addition to socially transitioning, there are medical options available to trans kids when they start puberty, such as puberty blockers and HRT.
HRT is a physical/chemical process that involves taking doses of testosterone or estrogen to make physical changes to more closely align with one’s identity. It is widely used to treat gender dysphoria, as recognized by the American Psychiatric Association. As Aubrey Wilkerson, Executive Director of Out Youth, an Austin-based support and advocacy organization for LGBTQ youth, states: “Gender-affirming care for trans and non-binary youth saves lives. It is safe, effective, and endorsed by the American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.”
Abbott postures as though he is preventing children from irreparable harm, but is actually forcing his own version of irreparable harm and irreversible changes onto vulnerable youth. Preventing trans and non-binary youth from accessing HRT or puberty blockers forces them to go through an unwanted type of puberty. In most cases, this brings about irreversible physical changes that can trigger gender dysphoria for the rest of their lives. It is an act of cruelty to ban this life-saving treatment when it reduces suicide risk and depression, helps countless people live as their authentic selves, and is widely accepted by the medical community.
The science is clear: transgender people know what is best for themselves, including transgender youth. Gender dysphoria is a widely recognized condition that is commonly treated with HRT. Teens coming to terms with their identities know more about themselves, and should have more of a say in their own healthcare, than state legislators or gubernatorial candidates. The relentless attacks from transphobic politicians like Greg Abbott are not motivated by any legitimate concern for the well-being of children. They are motivated by an ideological hatred of the LGBTQ community, especially transgender people.
Abbott’s directive part of a larger right-wing backlash
Texas conservatives are not the only ones that are attacking the LGBTQ community. Seventeen anti-LGBTQ laws were passed across the United States in 2021, and substantially more were proposed. At least 17 more have been proposed in 2022. Anti-trans sports bans have passed in states like Texas, Alabama and Mississippi, while Arkansas has banned HRT for anyone under the age of 18. “Bathroom bills,” like the failed 2017 bill in Texas or the initially successful 2016 bill in North Carolina, are perennial favorites of the far-right to drum up fear and hatred of trans people as secret “predators.” In one legislative session alone, Texas legislators proposed over 30 bills aimed at trans people, including 13 specifically targeting trans children.
Texas State Rep. Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler), a vocal opponent of the transgender community, has called for “a special session immediately to address this now that we have the backing of the attorney general’s office. We are not going to back down on this — this is a hill that we are ready to die on.”
Other politicians on that “hill” are steadfastly working to turn back the clock on LGBTQ rights. The far-right is desperate to undo all societal progress.
Whether legislative attacks on trans people are focused on public restrooms, school athletic programs, or the right of minors to transition and receive medical care, transgender youth will bear the brunt of any discrimination passed into law.
Transphobia and hate used to divide the working class
Transphobia and other forms of bigotry like it are tried-and-true tactics of the capitalist class to divide working, oppressed and exploited people. Scapegoating trans people serves multiple functions for ruling elites. On one hand, Abbott and his far-right cohort are drumming up hatred and fear toward trans children and their families to galvanize their political base during an election year. They are using hatred and endangering families to raise electoral support even as Texas faces other health, infrastructure and social disasters. On the other hand, this transphobic order is not solely a “distraction” from any of those issues, but is a sincere attempt by the far-right to roll back the social gains of LGBTQ people.
As terrifying as the threat is, the assault on LGBTQ existence will not succeed. LGBTQ people have existed throughout human history and will fight for their survival as they did in the rebellion at Stonewall.
We will not allow progress to be destroyed, we will not allow ourselves to be scapegoated for the misery of capitalism, and we will not go back in the closet!