It’s Going Down invited me to come back to their podcast to discuss the GOP war on trans and LGBTQIA rights, based on my recent reporting for the Austin Chronicle:
Category: Austin Chronicle
“It’s heartbreaking to look back and see that the investigations of gender-affirming families have started, that the nightmare I had of someone knocking on my door and threatening to take away my kid is actually coming true for some people,” Camille Ray told me.
Ray’s family are like a growing number of families: they’ve left or plan to leave the state of Texas to protect a trans or queer child. She moved from the Austin-area to Maryland in August 2021, in order to protect her transgender son Leon. We spoke on the phone as she walked her dog on a hiking trail near her home, as research for my recent Austin Chronicle article on the fear and anxiety faced by trans people and their families.
Though the interview didn’t make it into the article, I wanted to share a little of it here since I know her experience mirrors that of so many other residents of Texas, and other states attacking their LGBTQIA+ young folks. People who make the painful choice to leave, essentially becoming political refugees from a state that hates their trans or queer children.
Despite a temporary halt to politically motivated child abuse investigations of families with trans kids, parents and advocates say they continue to live in fear as anti-trans moral panic sweeps through the Lone Star State’s GOP base voters and their leaders.
The ACLU of Texas and Lambda Legal have won four successive rulings in their challenge to Gov. Greg Abbott’s directive to investigate normal gender affirming health care as child abuse. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has asked the Texas Supreme Court to overrule a lower court’s injunction and allow Child Protective Services investigations to continue immediately. Shelly Skeen, a senior attorney from Lambda Legal representing the plaintiffs, told the Chronicle that she expects a favorable ruling, because both the law and medical experts are on Lambda Legal’s side.
… Texas continues to look for other ways to put pressure on trans kids, their parents, and their health care providers. In late March, Paxton’s office filed new investigative demands in a civil case against two pharmaceutical companies, Endo Pharmaceuticals and AbbVie Inc., which provide puberty-blocker drugs. Although approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of children who enter puberty early, they’re also prescribed (with the backing of experts like the American Medical Association) as a way to delay puberty in transgender kids who are too young to receive other forms of medical treatment such as hormones.
On March 25, city personnel moved 31 people living in a controversial encampment at St. Johns and I-35 into transitional housing at the Northbridge and Southbridge shelters, as part of the city’s HEAL (Homeless Encampment Assistance Link) initiative, adopted in the wake of last year’s local and state reinstatement of a ban on public camping.
For months, the encampment in and around St. John Neighborhood Park had generated concern among neighbors. On March 6, police shot and killed 28-year-old Miguel Ruiz Rivera, who lived periodically at the camp, after he had apparently been spotted firing a gun near one of the tents. At the same time, an outpouring of generosity from locals seeking to help unhoused neighbors inspired multiple fundraising campaigns and sustained volunteer efforts to feed, assist and, ultimately, house the campers before the city stepped in.
The American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal are back in court over Gov. Greg Abbott’s “abuse” directive, after the state threatened to ignore a ruling that temporarily protected families with transgender children from unneccessary investigations by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
On March 17, the two civil rights nonprofits asked the Texas 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals to issue an emergency order that would force the state to obey the lower court’s ruling. Previously, Judge Amy Clark Meachum blocked Abbott’s directive until at least July when the lawsuit is due to continue; meanwhile, Attorney General Ken Paxton claims the state can completely disregard Meachum’s ruling while awaiting the results of an appeal. Shelly Skeen, a senior attorney from Lambda Legal representing the plaintiffs, told the Chronicle that the appeals court could rule on both their emergency restraining order and the state’s appeal any day now, or call for more hearings. Ultimately, she expects the courts to side with well-established medical science when it comes to gender affirming care. “CPS should not be investigating families that are simply trying to provide medically necessary care … and to give their trans kids the best possible life,” said Skeen.
Paul Gray, a white supremacist originally from Tyler and active in Austin during the Trump presidency, is being lauded by Fox News after volunteering to fight Russian invaders in Ukraine. During a March 1 appearance in a segment titled “Former American paratrooper joins fight in Ukraine,” Fox reporters praised Gray as a veteran volunteering to fight on behalf of Ukraine but neglected to mention his violent history.
Despite Fox protecting Gray’s identity by using only his first name, he was easily recognizable to extremism researchers like Michael Edison Hayden, senior investigative reporter and spokesperson for the Southern Poverty Law Center. “They elect not to report his full name and don’t even stop to ask why he might already be in Ukraine,” Hayden told the Chronicle. “They just hope that the audience doesn’t ask any questions because then Fox will be forced to dig deeper into an uncomfortable story about our problems with radicalization here at home.” Reports published by KETK, Tyler’s Fox affiliate, did use Gray’s full name and further identified him as an American citizen who’s owned a gymnasium and reportedly “been an influence on the Ukrainian community.”