The party for “small government” and “personal freedom” is at it again. And by “at it,” I mean using the power of the government to wildly overreach into citizens’ personal matters.
In an effort to win political points, Republican Texas governor Greg Abbott is using trans kids and their families as pawns. Last week he sent a directive to state agencies saying that giving trans kids gender-affirming health care constitutes child abuse and that anyone who facilitates this care should be investigated. He even threatened criminal punishment for teachers, doctors, and the general public who fail to report said “abuse.”
It’s a dumb stunt. It doesn’t fundamentally change the law about child abuse and is founded on absolutely no facts or expert opinion. His baseless assertion is directly opposed by everything child healthcare and mental health professionals say about care for trans kids.
His directive ignores years of research that gender-affirming treatments like puberty suppression and hormone treatment are not harmful, but instead can be lifesaving. The American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Adolescent Psychiatry, American Medical Association, American Association of Physicians for Human Rights, Pediatric Endocrine Society, and a slew of other professional groups have come out to affirm that the current practices of care for trans kids are incredibly necessary and effective.
From the pearl-clutching of the GOP, one would assume doctors are performing irreversible genital surgery on children. Well, they are. But we’ll talk about circumcision and unnecessary operations on intersex kids another day.
In reality, there are standards of care for trans kids that require extensive therapy for children and their families, and medical treatments are mostly focused on suppressing and postponing their endogenous puberty. That is: not making them go through the unwanted breast development, body hair growth and other physical changes that would happen otherwise. Puberty is scary and hard enough if your bodily changes are affirming your gender; they’re incredibly daunting for someone who experiences gender dysphoria.
Access to these kinds of treatments has a huge impact on the mental health of trans kids. A recent study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health shows that being able to get gender-affirming care is associated with lower rates of depression and fewer suicidal thoughts and attempts. Being needlessly investigated by Child Protective Services and potentially removed from a loving family and put in foster care, though? Not generally great for a child.
So why is Abbott ignoring mounds of evidence and the overwhelming consensus of professionals, while threatening to break up families and punish innocent people?
Abbott is running for a third term as governor and while he’s firmly in the lead, the primary is apparently a little too close for his comfort. His Republican primary opponents have been vying for the Lone Star State’s swelling sociopathic vote by saying he’s not adequately conservative. This is a man who has decades of far-right bona fides, sued the Obama administration 44 times, has made sweeping, unprecedented challenges to voting and abortion rights and still has the approval of former President Trump.
But going after LBGTQ kids is an easy way to score political points for Republicans across the country right now. Abbot’s hateful stunt is just one of many recent ones.
Instead of funding girls’ sports and making sure the coaching teams are free from predators, they’re banning trans girls from playing sports. Instead of providing consent education that combats rape culture or funding school building infrastructure, they’re pushing for schools to keep trans kids from being able to safely use the bathroom. Instead of making sure every child gets access to quality healthcare, they’re threatening medical professionals with licensure loss for treating trans kids. They’re refusing to let teachers talk about the existence of LGBTQ people and forcing schools to out queer kids to their parents.
The impact on LGBTQ kids and their families is immeasurable. While it remains to be seen if state agencies are going to do anything differently as a result of the directive, many parents are rightfully nervous.
Amanda Briggle, an activist and the parent of a trans child, recently published a thread on Twitter about preparing for the worst.
She recommends creating a “safe folder” that includes letters from the child’s pediatrician, counselors and other healthcare providers affirming their gender, as well as drawings made by the child that demonstrate consistent gender identity, videos and photos of the child displaying their gender, and any other documents like birth certificates, passports, and even report cards and awards.
Briggle concludes by saying that she hopes no one needs to use the cache of information, “But if someone calls CPS on you for doing nothing more than loving your transgender child and supporting them in the ways that they need, then you have evidence to back you up that YOU ARE A GOOD PARENT.”
Regardless of political affiliation, hopefully voters will see these empty, hateful antics for they are: cheap ways to score points without addressing the actual problems facing families.