A 16-year-old transgender boy in Texas attempted suicide the same day Gov. Greg Abbott ordered state agencies to investigate families like his, as a result of the “political environment” including Abbott’s order, as well as being misgendered in school, according to court documents.
Weeks later, an investigator from child protective services came to the family’s home—not to investigate the suicide attempt, but to investigate his mother as an “alleged perpetrator” of child abuse for allowing her son to take the hormone therapy prescribed by his doctors, those documents say.
The boy and his mother, referred to in court documents by the pseudonyms Antonio and Mirabel Voe, sued Texas this week, along with two other families and the LGBTQ rights organization PFLAG. They’re seeking a temporary restraining order to block Texas from investigating families of trans youth (the lawsuit was first reported by the Texas Tribune.)
A lawyer representing those families, Lambda Legal’s Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, told VICE News the last few months have been a “traumatic experience for the entire family.”
“They live in fear of what this directive means for their future,” Gonzalez-Pagan said Thursday. “And ultimately, what it means for there not to be access to the care that Mirabel knows is necessary for [Antonio] to feel affirmed, happy, and able to be himself.”
Antonio is described in court documents as a “a kind and empathetic young man who enjoys reading, drawing, and running” who was a straight-A student prior to February 2022. In 2020, he told his mom he was transgender, and he began to socially transition, but going through puberty “still caused him significant distress.” In the summer of 2021, he began taking puberty blockers, and in January—a month before Abbott’s order—his doctor prescribed him hormone therapy.
His “mood and anxiety improved, and he looked forward to a brighter future” after he began taking the medications – but the Abbott decision “upended” his family’s lives, court documents say. That day, February 22, Antonio attempted to kill himself by ingesting a bottle of aspirin, according to the documents.
“In any conversation that involves suicide, it’s a complex phenomeon,” Gonzalez-Pagan told VICE News. “But certainly here we have seen how the directive from Gov. Abbott prevents the very care and affirmation that has been shown to reduce the incidence of suicide among trans youth.”
Nearly 20 percent of young transgender people attempted suicide in 2021, according to a survey released by the LGBTQ youth mental health resource the Trevor Project last month. This year has brought a wave of anti-LGBTQ legislation and orders targeting kids, like Alabama’s ban on gender affirming care for people under the age of 19. In Florida, GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration made twin proposals last week to ban Medicaid from covering gender-affirming care for both transgender minors and adults.
Since last year, more than a dozen states have passed laws banning transgender youth from playing on sports teams that match their gender identity, which advocates say is a naked attempt to further alienate trans kids from their peers.
“Transgender and nonbinary youth already report the highest rates of anxiety and depression symptoms,” Dr. Myeshia Price, a senior research scientist at the Trevor Project, told VICE News last month. “They’re aware of this legislation being put forth, and it’s definitely impacting their mental health.”
Antonio survived the suicide attempt, and after being hospitalized, was transferred to an outpatient psychiatric facility on February 24. But after the facility learned about Antonio’s hormone therapy, staff told his mother they might have to report the family for “child abuse” because of Abbott’s directive, which was adopted by the Department of Family and Protective Services.
On March 11, the family was visited by a CPS investigator and informed that Mirabel was under investigation for child abuse. She’s still under investigation, according to the lawsuit, which Gonzalez-Pagan says is “illustrative of the warped and distorted goals of the abbot administration’s and its Department of Family Protective Services.”
“The family has had to struggle with not just worrying about the access to care for Antonio, but also the ramifications of what it has meant for him to experience that situation on February 22,” he said. “And then to have his family reported by those who were supposed to take care of him in one of the most vulnerable moments of his life.”
A spokesperson for Texas DFPS declined comment, citing ongoing litigation; Abbott’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The plaintiffs’ lawyers are in court Friday for a hearing to obtain a temporary restraining order against the governor and DFPS from investigating the families.
As for Antonio, Gonzalez-Pagan said he’s “doing well thanks to the care he’s receiving” from his psychiatrist and doctors. “He has survived, but it is a difficult situation for him and his family,” Gonzalez-Pagan said.
“Thankfully, Antonio has been able to obtain care that has allowed him to participate in this case. But we should never be at that place—where, even understanding how complex suicide is, that an action like the governor’s may contribute or be a factor in that decision.”
Update: On Friday, a Travis County judge granted a restraining order in the case, bringing to a halt the state’s investigations into PFLAG members like the Voes and the two other families named in the lawsuits.
“The court and Texans agree: weaponizing the child welfare system against loving families causes irreparable harm,” Adri Pérez, a policy and advocacy strategist for the ACLU of Texas, said in a statement the organization posted to Twitter.
“It is senseless for governor-appointed [DFPS Commissioner] Jaime Masters and DFPS to keep pushing forward these baseless allegations, and for [Attorney General] Ken Paxton to keep wasting state resources by filing reckless appeals in his campaign to target transgender Texans.”
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, help is available. Call 1-800-273-8255 to speak with someone now or text START to 741741 to message with the Crisis Text Line. The Trevor Project offers 24/7 crisis services online, at 1-866-488-7386, or by texting START to 678678.
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