The state of Texas’ new policy of targeting loving parents of transgender children with bogus “child abuse” investigations has shocked Americans of conscience and observers around the world.
But while the policy represents an extremely damaging escalation, the assault on trans rights has been well underway in Texas and other US states for years.
The Inhumane New Policy – currently in limbo amid rapid legal maneuvering – appears to have been inspired by the case of Jeff Younger.
Younger is a financial analyst who is now running for a seat in the Texas House of Representatives because of the cachet he gained among far-right members in a custody battle with his estranged wife. She was a pediatrician who enabled one of their twin children to socially transition from male to female – that is, to dress and live like a girl – when the child stayed with her.
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This decision represents best medical practice and is consistent with the broad consensus of the medical and scientific communities. By claiming in court that accepting the child’s desire to socially transition was “child abuse,” Younger was, in fact, the abuser.
And now the state of Texas is following in his abusive footsteps.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a well-known evangelical ideologue who was indicted on multiple criminal fraud charges in 2015, issued a nonbinding advisory in February. This provides a fig leaf of legal cover for the state to investigate parents who allow their children to receive age-appropriate gender transitional care, for “child abuse.”
Texas Governor Greg Abbot, a right-wing Catholic, quickly acted on the opinion — which legal scholars say represents an unconstitutional overreach by the executive branch. He ordered state child welfare agencies to begin terrorizing Texas families who have (or are simply suspected of having) transgender children, launching illegitimate ‘child abuse’ investigations. in response to reports — whistleblowers, really — from other Texans.
When asked if the Texas policy is constitutional, Charles “Rocky” Rhodes, a professor at the South Texas College of Law Houston, answers unequivocally: “Absolutely not.” The moment is gripping, because throughout most of our phone conversation, his words are carefully measured and spoken.
Rhodes also doesn’t mince words about Paxton, a man he considers “an opportunist.” On questions of constitutional law, both state and federal, there is no doubt in Rhodes’ mind that the state’s attorney general and governor have overstepped. Under the state constitution, they don’t have the power to so radically redefine a law — as they did in this case. This prerogative belongs to the state legislature.
As for federal law, Rhodes points to issues of equal protection, citing the example of puberty blockers. If doctors are legally allowed to prescribe them for certain conditions but not for the treatment of gender dysphoria, Rhodes argues, it “shows that the only reason for the law is animosity toward transgender people.”
A parent fights back
Unfortunately, such animosity is mounting among Texas conservatives. Over the past few weeks, I have spoken to some of the parents targeted simply because they love and accept their children as they are. Their stories are heartbreaking.
Katie Laird is a social impact strategist, who recently transitioned from the corporate sector to the nonprofit sector. She is also the mother of a trans son, currently in high school, whom she asked me to call “N”.
Laird told me that one of the things she loves the most about N is how he “was always uniquely himself.” When he came out in his senior year of college, Laird explained, “He was worried it would be too much for us, which is like saying ‘oh baby, for you anything, nothing’. is too much “.” And Laird has been a fierce fighter for N’s rights and well-being as a young trans man ever since.
Born in Texas and currently living in the diverse urban center of Houston, Laird said she now has a “love-hate relationship” with her home state as it “is becoming very hostile towards my family.”
Last October, after testifying in Austin, the state capital, before the Texas House Committee on Constitutional Rights and Remedies, Laird wrote, “I am firmly in crisis mode. At that time, Texas was considering banning trans children from participating in school sports, a ban that was eventually approved by the state legislature.
It was the only anti-trans bill to pass the Texas legislature last year, out of 76 that were considered – a flurry of anti-trans agitation and activity that has put Laird and his family on what she calls “an emotional rollercoaster.”
Laird frequently traveled between Houston and Austin to fight bills, testifying, meeting lawmakers, and “having to walk through those halls with people calling you a genital mutilator, wearing pro-life T-shirts, but acting in a way which I see as not at all pro-life”.
Although she’s proud of the accomplishments of herself and her fellow activists in fighting 75 bills, she said it feels like a “hollow victory” as Republicans in Texas continue to make people trans scapegoats and pushing the boundaries of what is possible in terms of persecution. their.
Laird and his fellow activists “are so certain that with the Sports Bill, they wanted […] pissing people off, putting a certain language in people’s heads” in order to pave the way for even tougher measures later. This feeling is confirmed in the news.
His family is not under investigation at this point, but Laird knows of families who are. Before the governor ordered these “child abuse” investigations, Laird said she never considered leaving Texas, but that option is now on the table.
She lives, she says, in a state of “visceral fear”. But she added, with what could be described as genuine Texas courage: “I refuse to be silenced. I’m not going to curl up.
Family under investigation
The Briggle family are familiar with the fear described by Laird. They live in North Texas, where Adam Briggle teaches at a local university — one where a group of right-wing students invited Jeff Younger to speak.
“The students shouted it,” Adam told me by phone on March 8. He was also receiving calls from reporters that day, when the Briggles went public with information that they were being investigated for “child abuse” because they had a transgender son.
He calls his wife Amber “the real rock star” in terms of trans rights advocacy. They have been fighting for these rights since 2015, when the first “toilet bill” was proposed.