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Ken Paxton and Greg Abbott Call Gender-Affirming Care “Child Abuse”

LGBTQ advocates respond to the anti-trans attack.

Ken Paxton (l) and Greg Abbott

In his latest effort to suppress the identities of transgender youth in the Lone Star State, Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a 13-page nonbinding argument stating that gender-affirming treatments such as sex-reassignment surgeries, puberty blockers, and hormone therapies qualify as child abuse under Texas law. 

Despite overwhelming pushback from the American Academy of Pediatrics and other medical organizations, Paxton said in a February 22 statement, “There is no doubt that these procedures are ‘abuse’ under Texas law, and thus must be halted. The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) has a responsibility to act accordingly. I’ll do everything I can to protect against those who take advantage of and harm young Texans.” 

Paxton’s statement ignores the fact that trans children are the ones asking their parents for gender-affirming medical care, and that denying such care can lead trans children to become suicidal.  

Paxton, who is seeking reelection in 2022 and currently finds himself under the national microscope for accusations of bribery and abuse of office, received support for this anti-trans attack from fellow Republican Greg Abbott, who on February 23 strongly urged State officials to begin investigating families who are helping their children with gender-affirming treatments. The conservative lawmakers appear to be pandering to their base of angry far-right Republicans, who are turning out in large numbers to vote in the current primary election. 

Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee responded to the GOP lawmakers this week by saying, “Governor Abbott and General Paxton are ignoring medical professionals and intentionally misrepresenting the law, to the detriment of transgender children and their families. My office will not participate in these bad-faith political games.” 

Appealing to the rule of law, Menefee continues: “As the lawyers handling these cases, we owe a duty of candor to the courts about what the law really says. We’ll continue to follow the laws on the books—not General Paxton’s politically motivated and legally incorrect ‘opinion.’”

Equality Texas, an organization that works to secure full equality for queer Texans through political action and education, countered what they describe as misinformation and “a non-existent problem” by saying, “We stand with every major, credible medical association in supporting age-appropriate, best-practice standards of health care for transgender youth and adults, because that care is evidence-based, rooted in science and, quite literally, life-saving. Misconstruing the law and amplifying junk science to attack innocent children and their parents is cruel, beneath contempt, and could have a devastating effect on transgender youth and their families.”

While it is unclear what the ramifications of Paxton’s 13-page argument will be, his announcement—and the publicity it is generating—have likely already had the impact that he and other Texas Republicans were banking on. Early voting for the March 1 primary election is ongoing, and the midterm election will take place on Tuesday, November 8. 

In its statement, Equality Texas reminded Texans that neither Paxton’s opinion nor Abbott’s letter can change the law because they are not legally binding. No court in Texas has ever found gender-affirming care to be considered child abuse. 

“This is political theater, on the eve of primary elections, from politicians that spent 10 months attacking transgender youth last year,” the organization said. “Fear-mongering about the lives of transgender people fuels bias and discrimination, putting transgender kids and adults at risk.”

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Zachary McKenzie

Zachary McKenzie is a marketing professional and freelance writer in Houston, TX. He received his bachelor's degree from The University of Texas at Austin in 2014 and has lived in Houston since. Zachary is a volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters and enjoys spending his free time with friends, exploring the richness and diversity of Houston.
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