As families of trans children live in fear of state investigation, advocacy groups sue Texas

This story was originally published by The 19th on March 1, 2022.

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) has received at least three reports alleging abuse or neglect based on gender-affirming care for minors, agency spokeswoman Marissa Gonzales said. , to 19 in response to a request for registration.

The reports came after Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a non-binding legal opinion on February 18 saying transgender medical care for minors, such as puberty blockers and hormone treatment, is child abuse, and the Gov. Greg Abbott told DFPS to investigate parents of trans children. Abbott also ordered other state agencies to investigate licensed medical facilities prescribing gender-affirming treatment for trans youth, saying doctors, nurses and teachers should report cases of trans children. receiving such care.

READ MORE: Texas AG Ken Paxton once joined this family of a trans kid for dinner. They now feel attacked

The American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against Abbott and the state child welfare agency to end investigations into parents seeking gender-affirming care for their children. .

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a DFPS employee with a 16-year-old transgender girl, the ACLU said in a news release. The family alleges in the lawsuit that an investigator arrived at their home last Friday to interview the family and that the investigator requested the teenager’s medical records.

The DFPS had already received at least three reports alleging abuse or neglect based on gender-affirming care for minors. The agency declined to comment further on those reports, as well as the ACLU and Lambda Legal lawsuit, and has not yet responded to requests for additional documents.

Ian Pittman, a Texas-based family attorney, said he represented two families under investigation by DFPS and knew of at least three others in the state.

“One of my clients that I was actually on the survey with was crying uncontrollably because she was going through every parent’s worst nightmare: that the state is somehow going to come between them and their child to be a normal good parent,” Pittman said. .

In the medical community, gender-affirming care for children is not controversial. All major medical associations, including the American Medical Association, American Psychological Association, and American Academy of Pediatrics, support gender-affirming care, citing studies that such care reduces suicidality and depression in young people .

Several parents of trans children told the 19 that they had started collecting testimonies from friends and family members in case they were sued. The parents, many of whom had spoken to the media in recent weeks, declined to be interviewed by The 19th, fearing it would draw attention to them. A mother sobbed into the phone repeating that she was unable to speak.

“It’s as bad as ever,” said Angela Hale, spokeswoman for Equality Texas. “We put off all of that for a decade.”

Hale said child protective services arrived at the homes and schools of a handful of transgender children across the state.

Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) who has represented LGBTQ+ rights cases for nearly 30 years, told the 19th that families of trans children in Texas should find an attorney willing to represent them.

“Don’t wait to be investigated or to learn you are being investigated,” he said. He encouraged families to call the NCLR hotline or contact Lambda Legal or the ACLU of Texas. Minter also advised parents to tell their children that if they’re approached by a state official at school who wants to talk to them about being transgender, the student can say they’re not in. comfortable having this conversation without his parents.

District attorneys representing Five populous Texas counties — Dallas, Travis, Bexar, Nueces and Fort Bend — announced last week that they would not enforce Paxton’s legal interpretation or interfere with families seeking gender-affirming care for their children. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Texas Pediatric Society also strongly opposed Paxton’s announcement.

Minter, who grew up as a trans child in East Texas and still lives in the area, said Paxton’s legal opinion and Abbott’s directive for DFPS to enforce it are “the worst anti-LGBTQ thing I’ve seen in my career.”

He fears the order could deepen feelings of hopelessness and suicidality among trans youth, who already face disproportionate rates of suicide, anxiety and depression compared to their peers. As of last week, trans youth and their families have already started reaching out to The Trevor Project, an LGBTQ+ youth suicide prevention organization, to understand what the directive means for them, CEO Amit Paley said in a statement.

Adri Pérez, policy and advocacy strategist at the ACLU of Texas, said he is concerned that transgender youth in the state are being removed from welcoming and loving homes.

“I fear the Department of Family and Protective Services is causing irreparable harm to trans families across Texas by exploiting their lack of familiarity with the system,” they said.

The state legislature last year rejected a bill that would criminalize gender-affirming care for youth and federal protections for trans-Americans would likely override the Texas view.

Tuesday is primary day in Texas, and both Paxton and Abbott are up for re-election. Abbott surveyed comfortably ahead of the challengers, but Paxton, who has been accused by former employees of abuse of power and has also been charged with securities fraud, faces multiple challengers in a race that looks likely to go in the second round. Supporters saw Paxton’s February opinion as aimed at energizing his supporters.

Now lawyers are watching to see if the Biden administration will step in.


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