An 11-year-old Texas trans activist pens letter to state legislators: ‘I’m afraid I’ll be taken from my mom’

Texas fifth grader Kai Shappley urges officials to ‘treat trans youth just like other kids’

Alex Woodward
New York
Wednesday 09 March 2022 17:05 GMT
Related video: Kai Shappley asks Texas legislators to protect transgender children in 2021 testimony

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Louise Thomas

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When Texas legislators considered a pair of bills to criminalise gender-affirming care for transgender children last year, Kai Shappley, then 10 years old, told a roomful of officials that “it makes me sad that some politicians use trans kids like me to get votes from people who hate me just because I exist”.

Her powerful testimony to the state’s Senate Committee on State Affairs in 2021 went viral.

Last month, Governor Greg Abbott issued a directive warning that gender-affirming care could come with “criminal penalties” after state Attorney General Ken Paxton declared puberty-suppressing drugs and other medically accepted treatments for transgender children would constitute “child abuse” under Texas law.

Now 11 years old, the Texas fifth grader and transgender rights activist has appealed to state legislators to combat the governor’s agenda and “treat trans youth just like other kids”.

In an open letter published by Elle, Kai says she was “upset and disappointed” when she learned about the administration’s directive.

“People are becoming so cruel and heartless,” she writes. “I mean, we’re just kids! Now I might not get the care I need. Changes could happen to my body that would be irreversible. I don’t even want to think about that.”

Texas officials already opened at least five investigations into the parents of transgender children for possible child abuse, according to the Texas Tribune.

An investigation by the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services, following the nonbinding opinion from Attorney General Paxton, has targeted an agency employee with a 16-year-old transgender child, according to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal.

“I’m afraid I’ll be taken from my mom,” Kai writes in her letter to Texas legislators. “That’s the worst thought of all of it.”

She adds: “If I could sit down with [Governor] Abbott, I would ask him to please stop. I would tell him ‘You’re hurting me.’ Is that too much to ask? Just stop. I think adults should treat trans youth just like other kids. Adults are supposed to protect me – not hurt me and my family. It makes me upset, because I’m the child here.”

This year, Republican state legislators have proposed more than 266 bills targeting LGBT+ Americans, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Of those proposals, at least 125 directly target transgender people.

In 2021, at least 25 anti-LGBTQ+ measures were signed into law across the US, including 13 laws targeting transgender people in eight states, according to the organisation.

President Joe Biden has called Governor Abbott’s move “a cynical and dangerous campaign” and “government overreach at its worst”.

“Like so many anti-transgender attacks proliferating in states across the country, the governor’s actions callously threaten to harm children and their families just to score political points,” he said in a statement last week. “These actions are terrifying many families in Texas and beyond. And they must stop.”

On Tuesday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said “the steps we’ve seen in Texas and Florida are deeply concerning, and are discriminating against the kinds of kids we need to be loving and supporting.”

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