A slew of anti-transgender bills are moving quickly through the Texas Legislature, and the consequences could be deadly, according to trans advocates.
Senate and House committees have already approved two bills that restrict trans children’s access to gender-affirming sports and health care. On Thursday, April 15, the House Public Health Committee passed out HB 1399 authored by Rep. Matt Krause (R-Tarrant County), which seeks to “intimidate parents and doctors into denying life-saving care to trans children,” according to the Transgender Education Network of Texas (TENT).
Andrea Segovia, who serves as the executive director of Gender Infinity and as the policy and field coordinator of TENT, noted that Texas currently leads the nation in the current wave of anti-trans bills, and the state ranks among the highest in anti-LGBTQ bills in general. A majority of these bills attack the rights of trans children.
Trans people, including trans youth, 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. Every major medical association in the United States considers transition care to be safe, medically necessary, and life saving.
Measures like HB 1399 “would force physicians to disregard their oaths to act in the best interest of their patients and insert the government into clinical decision-making,” said Dr. James L. Madara, executive vice president and CEO of the American Medical Association. If HB 1399 is enacted, the impacts could be tragic.
“Kids are going to die,” Segovia added, noting the rise in depression, anxiety, and suicide by trans children who are impacted by anti-trans bills. “That’s not being dramatic, it’s being honest. It’s time to ring the alarm.”
Trans people are up to three times more likely than the general population to report or be diagnosed with mental-health or substance-abuse disorders. Trans minors also face a significantly heightend risk of suicide. But research has demonstrated that gender-affirming care results in improved body satisfaction and self-esteem, helps protect against mental-health problems, and supports healthy relationships with parents and peers. Studies also confirm a dramatic drop in suicide attempts, as well as lower rates of depression and anxiety.
Segovia and dozens of other Texans have gathered at the Capitol to advocate against anti-trans bills since hearings began on March 26. Trans children, parents, healthcare providers, and other advocates have traveled from across the state to share in-person testimonies with legislators, but their pleas are being largely ignored by conservative lawmakers.
During one hearing for the anti-trans bills, including HB 1399, Health Committee chair Rep. Stephanie Klick (R-District 91) decided to cut off in-person testimonies at midnight, and at least 60 individuals were unable to share their concerns. The committee then approved HB 1399 by a 6-4 vote, with all Republicans voting for it and all Democrats voting against it.
“There were so many kids and parents who did not get to testify,” Segovia said. “After taking time out of their schedules and practicing their testimonies all day, they had no say over what happened.”
Anti-trans attacks aimed at restricting trans peoples’ access to restrooms during the 2017 Texas Legislative Session resulted in The Trevor Project’s suicide hotline receiveing an increased number of calls by young LGBTQ Texans. She fears the stakes will be even higher should bills like HB 1399 become law.
“[Bathroom bills, such as those that restricted trans kids to using the nurses’ restrooms, were aimed at] ‘othering’ people in order to show trans people that [their identities are not worthy of being affirmed],” Segovia said. “With [transition-related care bans], lawmakers are saying that the lives of trans Texans do not matter. [Their attitude is], ‘If they leave the state, they leave; if they die, they die.’”
HB 1399 is heading to the House floor, where it will again come up for a vote. Segovia said there is still hope for stopping the bill, and folks can get involved by contacting House Speaker Dade Phelan (R-District 21).
“If we don’t stop this in the House, it is going to be a tough road to stop it in any other process,” Segovia concluded.