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:
“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.
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.
Families with transgender children in Texas won a reprieve on Friday, March 11, after a court temporarily blocked a statewide directive issued by Gov. Greg Abbott that redefined gender affirming care as presumed child abuse.
The action came in a lawsuit brought by the ACLU and Lambda Legal on behalf of an anonymous family with a 16-year-old transgender teen, who’d found themselves under investigation by the state. The child’s mother, referred to in court filings as Jane Doe, was an employee of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services and had expressed concern about the Feb. 22 directive. The agency then put Doe on leave and opened an abuse investigation into her family. Another plaintiff is Dr. Megan Mooney, a Houston psychologist who feared the directive could force “mandated reporters” such as herself to turn in clients simply for offering their trans kids appropriate care. Brian Klosterboer, an ACLU of Texas attorney who represents Mooney and the Doe family, said the state was moving against trans kids with alarming speed. “It’s really scary that they’ve weaponized the Department of Family and Protective Services to play politics with the very lives of transgender young people and to terrorize families in this state,” Klosterboer told the Chronicle before the hearing.
A crucial upcoming hearing, perhaps as early as March 11, could put the brakes on Gov. Greg Abbott’s directive for the state to investigate – as presumed child abuse – any gender affirming medical care provided to transgender youth. In the meantime, trans Austinites and allies are banding together to defend their human rights.
Transgender UT student Ash Terry organized a roughly 350-person protest March 1. After Abbott’s draconian directive inspired an outpouring of support, she said she’s actually feeling more hopeful for the future of trans kids in Texas than ever. “I was surprised at the number of cis[gender] allies out there,” she said. “I was just really staggered that there were so many, and a lot of people from out of town. This whole experience has given me a lot of hope.”