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Trans Hate Gains Steam in Both Austin and DC

HB 1686 advances as “trans-shooter” rhetoric increases.

Advocates for LGBTQ rights rally in the Texas Capitol Extension against HB 1686. (Photo by Stephen Miranda)

On Monday, March 27, HB 1686, a bill banning doctors from prescribing puberty blockers and hormone medications, and performing surgeries to treat minors diagnosed with gender dysphoria, had its first committee hearing in Austin. The bill would strip any doctor who provides such care of their medical license, and prohibit insurers from covering the costs of prescribing puberty blockers and hormone therapies

Republicans say they have the votes to pass it through the 150-member house, as a majority of members have signed on as co-authors. The Senate has already passed SB 14, a similar version of the bill. During the March 16 hearing on SB 14, Houston GOP activist Steven Hotze went on an anti-trans tirade, calling doctors who provide this type of health care “pedophiles.” 

(Photo by Austin Davis Ruiz)

HB 1686 is one of a record number of anti-LGBTQ bills filed in the 88th Legislative Session. It has support from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, although Gov. Greg Abbott has not endorsed it yet. In a March 27 “Fight for Our Lives” rally, 2,519 people signed up to speak against the bill, but over 400 were not allowed to speak at the state Public Health Committee meeting in Austin, which lasted around 11 hours.

“We know our kids deserve every opportunity to not only live as themselves, but to thrive,” Landon Richie, with the Transgender Education Network of Texas (TENT), said at the rally, which was covered by KVUE-TV in Austin. “No matter what happens here today, in this session, or any future sessions to come, we will continue to care for each other. We will make sure transgender youth get the chance to be transgender adults.”

The American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Psychiatric Association consider transition care to be medically necessary. The Texas Medical Association has previously opposed attempts to restrict or criminalize gender-affirming care.

HB 1686 hearing (Photo by Rep. Ann Johnson)

Rep. Ann Johnson of Houston, one of three openly gay Democrats sitting on the House Public Health Committee—along with Jolanda Jones of Houston and Venton C. Jones of Dallas—invoked her own personal story to fight HB 1686.

“You may not remember the moment you found out you were straight. I remember the moment I knew I was gay, and it’s because society told me there was something wrong about me,” Johnson said, pushing back against the argument that there’s an overwhelming reliance on youths’ self-perception when doctors prescribe gender-affirming care. “I hope that this state will find a way to make decisions that are compassionate and protective of all Texas children.”

Sadly, the bill’s hearing came on the same day that a 28-year-old shooter, who identified as transgender, killed six people at a Christian school in Nashville, Tennessee, including three children under 9 years of age.

Georgia U.S. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene immediately took to Twitter to write: “How much hormones like testosterone and medications for mental illness was the transgender Nashville school shooter taking? Everyone can stop blaming guns now.” There was immediate backlash to the tweet from Democrats on the Hill. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) called the comments “disgusting,” and Twitter moved to restrict Greene’s account.

Trans-rights advocates, along with a majority of the medical profession, claim prescribing puberty blockers and hormone therapies are necessary for the mental health of trans youth. A 2015 report by the National Center for Transgender Equality found that 40 percent of the roughly 27,000 transgender people surveyed had attempted suicide—almost nine times the average rate in the country.

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Marene Gustin

Marene Gustin has written about Texas culture, food, fashion, the arts, and Lone Star politics and crime for television, magazines, the web and newspapers nationwide, and worked in Houston politics for six years. Her freelance work has appeared in the Austin Chronicle, Austin-American Statesman, Houston Chronicle, Houston Press, Texas Monthly, Dance International, Dance Magazine, the Advocate, Prime Living, InTown magazine, OutSmart magazine and web sites CultureMap Houston and Austin, Eater Houston and, among others.
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