Trans rights groups slam Texas leaders’ ‘campaign stunt’ calling gender affirmation treatments ‘child abuse’

‘Simply put, we have some leadership in Texas that would undoubtedly rather see dead kids than trans kids,’ says Emmett Schelling, head of the Transgender Education Network of Texas

Nathan Place
New York
Wednesday 23 February 2022 21:03 GMT
Texas governor Greg Abbott has pledged to investigate gender affirmation treatments for minors as ‘child abuse’
Texas governor Greg Abbott has pledged to investigate gender affirmation treatments for minors as ‘child abuse’ (AP)

Human rights groups are outraged after Texas’ governor and attorney general condemned all gender affirmation treatments for minors as “child abuse”.

On Tuesday, Governor Greg Abbott ordered the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate the use of such treatments – including “puberty blocker” medications, hormone therapy, and gender confirmation surgeries – on transgender children.

The Republican governor said he was basing this decision on the legal opinion of his attorney general, Ken Paxton, that such healthcare constituted abuse.

“Sex-change operations and puberty blockers prescribed to kids is ‘child abuse’ under Texas law,” Mr Paxton said in a tweet unveiling the opinion. “These procedures are monstrous and tragic. I’ll do everything I can to protect against those who take advantage of and harm young Texans.”

Advocates for the trans community were furious. In a statement, the Transgender Education Network of Texas (TENT) said Mr Paxton was using his position of power “to bully some of Texas’s most vulnerable children yet again.”

“I hope to see the day that trans people will not be used as political pawns, especially our youth,” wrote the group’s director, Emmett Schelling. “Simply put, we have some leadership in Texas that would undoubtedly rather see dead kids than trans kids.”

TENT and other groups said Mr Paxton’s opinion had nothing to do with science, and everything to do with politics.

“We urge all Texans to be skeptical about campaign stunts disguised as legal opinions from a corrupt politician who has built their career spreading disinformation about marginalized communities and who has no expertise in healthcare,” tweeted the LGBTQ rights group Equality Texas. “That’s exactly why we must leave healthcare decisions to the actual experts – the pediatricians and other providers who are working with families to keep kids healthy – instead of letting politicians interfere.”

Multiple medical organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), have endorsed gender-affirming treatments for certain children and adolescents – but emphasize that the appropriate care varies case by case.

“The decision of whether and when to initiate gender-affirmative treatment is personal and involves careful consideration of risks, benefits, and other factors unique to each patient and family,” the AAP says. “There is no prescribed path, sequence, or end point.”

Trans rights groups say the “child abuse” accusation elides all that complexity.

“We want to remind everyone that medical decisions should be left between doctors and their patients because bodily autonomy is crucial no matter the setting,” TENT said. “The opinion of the AG has no legal standing on its own and state agencies do not have to follow the opinion if they decide not to.”

In fact, at least one child services official in Texas vowed not to follow the governor’s order.

“As the lawyer who represents DFPS [Department of Family and Protective Services] in civil child abuse cases in Harris County, I can tell you my office won’t be participating in this political game,” tweeted County Attorney Christian Menefee. “We’ll continue to follow the laws on the books – not @KenPaxtonTX’s politically motivated and legally wrong ‘opinion.’”

The Independent has reached out to Governor Abbott and Attorney General Paxton for comment.

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