It’s been two weeks since the 87th Texas Legislative Session began, and anti-LGBTQ Republican lawmakers have already proposed two anti-transgender bills.
Representative Steve Toth (R-The Woodlands) has filed HB 68, which would ban trans youth from accessing gender-affirming health care by reclassifying it as child abuse, while Senator Charles Perry (R-District 28) has filed SB 373, which would force K–12 school children to only participate in sports according to the gender on their birth certificate.
“In the newest attempt to erode support for equal rights in Texas, Representative Steve Toth and Senator Charles Perry are directly targeting transgender youth, putting them under a harmful spotlight in two pieces of dangerous legislation,” Equality Texas said in a statement.
Since its inception in 1978, Equality Texas, a political advocacy organization, has advocated for LGBTQ rights at the State Capitol. Every year, opponents of equality in several state legislatures present the public with a newly fabricated “emergency” related to LGBTQ people, the group noted.
“These policies are designed to create fear, spread misinformation about who LGBTQ people are, erode the steady and rising support for [gender equality, and deny] LGBTQ people opportunities to participate fully in their communities,” Equality Texas said, noting that a Public Religion Research Institute study revealed that a majority of Texans support nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people.
“Being a kid is hard enough,” Equality Texas added. “Lawmakers claim these bills are designed to protect vulnerable youth, but they do just the opposite. We don’t need politicians making it even harder for kids who are transgender, denying them the best-practice medical care and singling them out for increased bullying and harassment.”
Trans people, including trans children, rely on informative health care as part of their transition, according to a recent study published in the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Major medical associations consider transition care for trans people to be safe, medically necessary, and life-saving.
While there is no law specifically regulating transition-related treatment separately from other medically necessary care, all minors need parental consent to medically transition, according to PolitiFact.
Widely accepted guidelines for transgender transition care emphasize gender-affirming care and therapy as primary tools for children. More intensive options, such as surgery or hormone treatment, are typically reserved for older adolescents (with parental consent) and adults.
Puberty blockers are a reversible treatment often prescribed for children who may feel uncomfortable with the gender they were assigned at birth, and it requires a child’s informed consent, according to the Mayo Clinic. Children whose gender identity is not being affirmed face “astronomically higher” rates of suicide, according to Equality Texas. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed that transgender youth face a “disproportionately higher risk” of suicide, substance abuse, and violence.
“Classifying best-practice medical care as child abuse sets a dangerous precedent for all Texans by allowing non-expert lawmakers to criminalize care that is live-saving and consistent with prevailing medical standards,” Equality Texas said.
For all students, having the opportunity to compete in sports results in positive outcomes in development, social skills, and psychological well-being, according to GLSEN. The psychological benefits of sports specifically include improved emotional regulation, decreased hopelessness and thoughts of suicide, fewer symptoms of depression, and higher self-esteem.
GLSEN research has also found that LGBTQ student athletes have higher GPAs than their peers who do not compete in sports, and a majority of LGBTQ student atheltes feel a sense of belonging at their schools.
“Attacking trans youths’ access to sports—a tactic that, like debating bathrooms, has no basis in real-world facts—is another attempt to isolate vulnerable trans kids, barring them from the friendship, education, teamwork, and health benefits of playing a sport,” Equality Texas said.
To help stop the attacks on LGBTQ people during the Texas Legislative Session, Equality Texas is asking its supporters to make their voices heard by contacting legislators, virtually mobilizing, and providing their own testimonies.
This article appears in the February 2021 edition of OutSmart magazine.