Adamalis Vigil travels eight hours from the Rio Grande Valley to North Texas to see her transgender daughter Adelyn, 13. Every day they sing and speak.
Unavailable in her hometown, this treatment is vital to her identity and mental health.
“It helps me feel like who I am, not like other females in school,” Adelyn added. “Mom taking me all the way over there is extremely wonderful.”
Adelyn, a tall, outgoing student, was suffering panic episodes at school as she reached puberty. The assaults ceased when she started attending North Dallas physicians.
Last week, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott asked state child welfare authorities to investigate claims of transgender children receiving gender-affirming care, just seven days before the GOP primary election.
Adelyn fears being away from her mother. Her anxiety is so high she refuses to sleep in her own bed. However, the Vigil family did not want to discuss Adelyn’s medical history.
Abbott’s order came after Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a nonbinding legal opinion saying gender-affirming care is child abuse.
According to medical professionals, children are seldom, if ever, subjected to such procedures. He also stated giving children gender-affirming treatments like puberty blockers, which are totally reversible, would constitute child cruelty. Experts claim the gender-affirming form of care focuses on social transition rather than medical therapy.
Shelly Skeen, senior attorney at Lambda Legal, says it’s doubtful a court would prosecute or remove a kid just for using gender-affirming therapy.
“Child abuse is not this in Texas law,” Skeen added.
Families, politicians, physicians, advocates, and even the White House slammed the attorney general’s opinion and governor’s instruction. People who support transgender youngsters may be attacked if they label gender-affirming therapy child abuse.
Assault, murder, and harassment are all plausible scenarios, says W. Carsten Andresen, associate professor of criminal law at St. Edward’s University in Austin.
In Texas, child abuse investigations based on gender-affirming care are rare. The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services says three complaints “matching the definition in the AG opinion and governor’s direction” were received last week. Officials say no probes have been opened.
But transgender children’s families and activists fear criminalising some services further stigmatises a vulnerable minority of Texans. Gender dysphoria is a dissatisfaction with one’s personal gender identity compared to the gender given at birth.
According to a recent survey, almost 40% of transgender kids attempt suicide. According to new CDC research, transgender children commit three times more suicide attempts than their cisgender peers.
The changes now force transgender children’s families in Texas to choose between medical care and possible child protective services inquiry.
“I know I must fight. I know I must talk. I know I have to be there. But how can I relieve my own stress?” stated Adamalis. “It’s unfortunate that she has to struggle as well. She had to mature faster than her peers.”
Politics of Opposition to Transgender People
Their anti-transgender rhetoric has been amplified by conservative media. The public outcry was so strong that a Dallas transgender youth programme was officially shut down.
In his remarks this week, Abbott even encouraged Texans to report abusive parents who they suspect are assisting their child’s gender transition with professional guidance.
The GOP-led Texas Legislature has long targeted transgender Texans. In 2017, politicians tried unsuccessfully to outlaw non-sex restrooms. They limited transgender pupils’ sporting participation last year. During the regular legislative session last year, Texas filed more anti-LGBTQ measures than any other state, according to Equality Texas.
One law would expressly label some gender-affirming care as child abuse. The bill passed the Senate but not the House.
The ruling and new direction further stigmatises an already marginalised population by normalising words and behaviours that target them, Texas House Democrats argued this week.
This has forced families to flee to protect their transgender children, negatively affected the mental health of gender expansive youth and perpetuated an epidemic of violence against transgender Texans and especially Black trans women, according to a letter signed by several Democratic lawmakers.
In a statement on Twitter on Thursday, five Texas district attorneys slammed the guidelines as “anti-trans” and “life-threatening” and said they would not treat gender affirming behaviours as abuse.
“We want to reassure our transgender residents that they may continue to seek care for their children,” the statement added.
Second-guessing the Quality of Care
Adelyn had been debating whether or not to go to her next doctor’s visit since her mother informed her about the governor’s decree. She’s been watching TikTok videos about the order till her mother gets home. She attempted to divert herself with a Percy Jackson movie on Thursday, but the anxiety got to her.
“When I’m at work, she continues asking when I’ll be home and for how long. How long? ‘Are you close?'” stated Adamalis. “It impacts her in that she wants to feel secure and comfortable with me.”
Five years ago, Libby Gonzales, a transgender girl, and her family informed Texas legislators that she dreaded being pushed into the boys’ restroom at school. They went to Austin to protest the controversial “bathroom bill,” which would have restricted transgender Texans’ access to public restrooms. Despite many tries, the bill died in the House.
“I’m 7 and I’m transgender,” the scared child informed the influential state senators in 2017. “Keep me secure. Thanks.”
Libby, aged 11, and her family no longer feel confident acknowledging or rejecting her gender care experience.
Her family, ardent opponents of Texas Republicans’ near-constant efforts to curb her daughter’s and other transgender youth’s rights, fear being labelled criminals by the state’s most powerful men.
Libby’s mother, Rachel Gonzales, has made provisions in case Texas Child Protective Services visits her Dallas home.
“My husband and I discussed so many hypotheticals,” Gonzales added. “We need a plan. It also helps me sleep.”
Skeen, of Lambda Legal, said anti-transgender rhetoric is already pushing families out the state. But the Gonzales say they’re staying.
“Daughter of fifth generation Texan Some thugs in the Texas [Legislature] are preventing us from leaving “”Gonzales”
DFPS investigated the family of a transgender kid over the use of gender-affirming treatment, a contentious custody dispute driven by the blogging father of a 7-year-old girl who was assigned male at birth.
In 2019, Abbott and Paxton ordered that the state’s child welfare agency look into the kid’s mother presenting as a girl. The action startled a scared community of transgender parents at the time.
Officials concluded that no surgical or hormonal techniques were employed and closed the case. According to his website, Jeff Younger lost custody of his two kids in the divorce.
Younger is now vying for the Republican nomination in the Flower Mound district. He declined to comment.
The Texas House Democrats confirmed this week that gender-affirming therapy is still allowed for transgender minors and that obligatory reporting requirements have not altered.
Even while child welfare officials stated earlier this week they would follow Abbott’s directives, Democrats claimed no government agency “is compelled to follow the governor’s command or enforce the attorney general’s false allegations.”
“An accusation of abuse or neglect must be submitted to initiate a CPS investigation,” stated DFPS spokesperson Patrick Crimmins.
In general, CPS investigators who uncover evidence of abuse may elect to provide assistance to the family to protect the kid. In severe circumstances, they may seek a judge to remove children from the household temporarily or permanently.
What They Are Most Afraid of?
Libby knows transgender kids “are panicking and sobbing after school. She has sobbed a lot, “- Rachel Gonzales “Removing a child from their home in a situation where the government is actively seeking to damage them would be irreparable injury to any family and child.”
Andresen says an inquiry may be stressful, life-altering, and intrusive. A DFPS investigator may interview family members and others familiar with a family or kid to determine if abuse is suspected or not.
Andresen, whose wife works with transgender families as a family attorney, said wealthy parents are really considering moving out the state. Then why stay here when someone is threatening to probe you? Also, if Texas lawmakers — an increasingly conservative set — decide to amend the laws, gender-affirming therapy for adolescents may become banned in Texas.
Adelyn’s care “really changed her life,” her mother stated.
“How is accepting and loving them child abuse?” A.V. Vigil asks. “How can they come and tell me how to love my child?”