Mar 3, 2022 - Podcasts

Attacks on care for trans kids

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott last week ordered state agencies to treat gender-affirming care for trans young people as child abuse. Many parents, doctors and advocates are speaking out against what they say is a dangerous move, and yesterday a Texas judge issued a temporary halt to the order. But there's still fear and uncertainty for young people and their families.

  • Plus, what we know about Ukrainian deaths in Putin’s war.

Guests: Axios' Zach Basu and The 19th News' Orion Rummler.

Credits: Axios Today is produced in partnership with Pushkin Industries. The team includes Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Julia Redpath, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Alex Sugiura, Sabeena Singhani, and Lydia McMullen-Laird. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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NIALA BOODHOO: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today! It’s Thursday, March 3rd. I’m Niala Boodhoo. Today, our one big thing: the Texas crackdown on care for trans youth. But first: Ukrainians killed in Putin’s war.

As we enter the second week of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, we're just starting to understand the human cost of this war. Axios’ Zach Basu has been tracking civilian deaths, and he's here with us. Zach, what do we know so far about how many civilians have been reported killed?

ZACH BASU: I mean, the situation is changing so fast on the ground. But what we know is that Ukraine's state emergency service set for the first time yesterday, that more than 2000 Ukrainian civilians have died so far. The UN has put the official number far lower, at about 500 civilian deaths, but they have cautioned, uh, that it's likely to rise a lot more.

NIALA: The people who are paying attention to this are seeing so many different sources. How do you think people should be approaching thinking about this?

ZACH: I mean, while there's one clear aggressor in the war and that's Russia, you have to remember that both sides have an agenda and a certain narrative that they want to paint. For example, the Ukrainians have said that they've killed 5,000 Russian soldiers. Russia said for the first time, first time that it acknowledged a real death toll yesterday, uh, that 500 Russian soldiers have died. So, uh, it's a vast gap between those two figures. So what I would recommend is relying on figures from the United Nations, which may be a bit delayed, but those are definitely the reliable-most reliable ones that you can get.

NIALA: And unfortunately, we're just going to continue to see these numbers grow?

ZACH: Oh, absolutely. I mean, we've seen some Russian seize tactics against cities, like Kharkiv, uh, in the Northeast that U.S. officials have said might start to spread to other cities, including Kiev, as the Russians’ goals of, you know, swiftly taking these cities and taking control of the entire country have failed. They may start to resort to targeting even more civilian infrastructure and really engaging in a sort of terror campaign.

NIALA: Axios’ Zach Basu. Thanks, Zach.

ZACH: Thank you.

NIALA: We’ll be back in 15 seconds with how gender-affirming care for trans teens is under attack in Texas.

NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today. I'm Niala Boodhoo. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott last week ordered state agencies to treat gender affirming care for trans young people as child abuse. And for parents of these young people to be investigated. This follows a legal opinion from Attorney General, Ken Paxton. Many parents, doctors and advocates are speaking out against what they say is a dangerous move. And yesterday, a Texas judge issued a temporary halt to the order. It's the latest in a string of political efforts in Texas and other states to limit the rights of trans Americans. President Biden addressed this in his state of the union speech Tuesday night.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: The onslaught of state laws targeting transgender Americans in their families. It's simply wrong. I said last year, especially to our younger transgender Americans, I'll always have your back as your president. So you can be yourself and reach your God-given potential.

NIALA: Orion Rummler is a reporter for the news outlet, The 19th, and a long time friend of the podcast. And he's here to help us understand what's going on with all of this. Welcome back, Orion.

ORION RUMMLER: Hey, Niala. It's so great to be back with y’all, thank you.

NIALA: Thanks for being here. When we say gender affirming care, what exactly are we talking about?

ORION: Sure. So that means hormone therapy like estrogen, testosterone. It also means puberty suppressing blockers, that's largely considered a reversible treatment. And that's treatment that's taken by the child to stave off the puberty after they express that this is causing them severe mental discomfort to be going through that after they talk with a physician, mental health person to say, this is gender dysphoria. With Paxton's order and with Abbott's green light of it, they're also referencing surgery for minors, but trans minors don't typically go through with surgery. So, there's kind of a misinterpretation between what politicians are describing here and the care that's actually given.

NIALA: How often are children taking hormone suppressing or puberty blocking medication?

ORION: So that is what's most widely recommended by WPATH. And that's the gold standard for transgender care. They issued the guidelines to healthcare providers for this care. So that's the most common treatment that's given. And surgeries are not nearly as common. But the kind of surgery that politicians have been rallying against are genital surgeries. And those do not happen for minors.

NIALA: How is the medical community reacting to what's happening in Texas?

ORION: So the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Texas Pediatric Society, they came out in strong opposition to Texas Attorney General Paxton's declaration. The gender affirming care for kids, the hormones, the puberty suppressing blockers is not controversial. The American Medical Association endorses it, the American Academy of Pediatrics endorses it as well.

NIALA: And so is it clear with this order what exactly would constitute child abuse? Is that parents who bring children in for this type of care? Is that therapists or doctors who are providing this kind of medical care?

ORION: Abbott is calling on the child state welfare agency to investigate parents who are seeking that gender affirming care for children. And the governor is also saying that state agencies need to investigate licensed medical facilities that are prescribing this treatment, saying that doctors, nurses, and teachers should be reporting instances of this happening.

NIALA: Is that already happening now in Texas?

ORION: Uh, yes. So the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, that's the agency that Texas Governor Abbott is directing this towards. They told us, after we sent in a records request, that as of last Friday, they've gotten three reports, alleging child abuse. An employee at this agency is actually the plaintiff who is saying, I came under investigation from my own agency because my child is trans.

NIALA: What are you hearing about whether this effort in Texas is having ripple effects beyond the state?

ORION: Texas is unique because, this is the governor and the attorney general saying, we want this care to go away through us declaring it so, without the state legislature getting involved. But, we are seeing across the country more Republican legislators who are pushing bills to get rid of this care.

NIALA: How significant is it for young people if they don't have access to this care?

ORION: Studies have shown that having access to this care lowers suicide ideation and depression and anxiety, which is high for trans youth. I mean, there's one 14-year-old trans kid in Arizona who I talked to for a story recently. The way he described this to me is, you know, after he got this care, he was able to focus in school because it alleviated his gender dysphoria. Like he felt confident and he felt like he could be himself. And I know that's a simple way to put it, but for these kids, it's really like care that allows them to exist without like feeling this pressing anxiety that can really affect their day-to-day life. And it can really ease that anxiety for a lot of kids.

NIALA: Orion Rummler is a reporter for The 19th. Orion, thanks as always for coming on.

ORION: Thank you so much, Niala.

NIALA: One last story before we go today: the cost of babysitting is outpacing even inflation. The average hourly rate went up 11 percent last year, according to the website UrbanSitter. ​​The national average rate is $20.57 an hour for one child. And apparently vaccinated sitters are getting even higher wages.

That’s all we’ve got for you today! Text me your feedback and story ideas: I’m at (202) 918-4893. I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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