Apr 6, 2023 - News

Families fear the worst as anti-trans bills move through Capitol

Paige Hendrick holds their daughter Calill during the All In For Equality Advocacy Day demonstration in front of the Capitol on March 20. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Families and their transgender children are grappling with whether to remain in the state as multiple bills that would curtail transgender rights move through the Capitol.

State of play: Ahead of the legislative session, Gov. Greg Abbott ordered family protective services officials to launch child abuse investigations into reports of transgender kids receiving gender-affirming care.

What they’re saying: "The governor's directive is indicative of what's coming — this playbook for people reporting on each other," C.H., a parent in Austin, tells Axios.

  • C.H., who is in seminary training to become a minister and whose husband works in information technology in Austin, spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect the identity of her teenage child. Several years ago, at age 11, they explained to their parents that they no longer wanted to be considered a girl — their assigned gender at birth. The teen no longer goes by their birth name.
  • "When we got to a dentist or a doctor or a therapist, or there's a new school year, and who are the counselors, is anyone going to think something there's something wrong, and start a CPS investigation on us — in that way, it's doing exactly what it's meant to do, isolate people and control with fear," C.H. said.

The big picture: Advocates and families fear for the well-being of transgender youth as more than 400 bills targeting transgender rights have been introduced at statehouses across the country.

  • The LGBTQ+ community is already at higher risk for mental health disorders like anxiety and depression, Joshua Goodman, assistant professor of psychology at Southern Oregon University who studies issues related to the LGBTQ+ community and identifies as bisexual.
  • This is especially true for LGBTQ+ youth, who consistently report higher rates of depression and suicidal ideation than their straight and cisgender peers.

By the numbers: According to a poll released earlier this year by the Trevor Project, 86% of transgender and nonbinary youth surveyed said the recent debates over state laws restricting the rights of transgender people have negatively impacted their mental health.

  • Among all LGBTQ+ youth, 1 in 3 reported cyberbullying or online harassment, 1 in 4 reported that they stopped speaking to a family member or relative, and 1 in 5 reported bullying.
  • Transgender people are more than four times more likely than cisgender people to experience violence victimization including rape and sexual assault, per a 2021 study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law.

The bottom line: The legislation at the Texas Capitol, coupled with the governor's directive, leads C.H. to "occasionally feel an undercurrent of fear that I would lose my kid."

  • "The GOP is always looking for wedge issues, and this is an effective one," she said. "It hurts a small group of people, and hurts them badly. It normalizes violence against those people."

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