Trans Kids and Their Parents Are Still in Danger in Texas, Despite Court Ruling

A judge blocked the child abuse investigation into the family of one trans child, though the underlying policy is still in place.
Demonstrators gather on the steps to the State Capitol to speak against transgender related legislation bills being considered in the Texas Senate and House on May 20, 2021, in Austin, Texas.
Demonstrators gather on the steps to the State Capitol to speak against transgender related legislation bills being considered in the Texas Senate and Texas House on May 20, 2021, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo / Eric Gay)

Transgender kids and their parents are still in danger in Texas.

Last week, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered his state’s child protection agency to investigate families who help trans kids get gender-affirming health care for child abuse. On Wednesday, after the ACLU of Texas and Lambda Legal sued, a Texas judge temporarily blocked the investigation into one family.

But the ruling was only a partial victory: The civil rights organizations had also asked to freeze Abbott’s policy statewide. Judge Amy Clark Meachum set a hearing on that request for March 11.

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In their lawsuit, the civil rights groups pointed out that Texas lawmakers had repeatedly failed to pass bills that would have restricted children from accessing gender-affirming care. Now, the groups said, Abbott and other Texas officials have “attempted to legislate by press release.”

“Their actions caused terror and anxiety among transgender youth and their families across the Lone Star State and singled out transgender youth and their families for discrimination and harassment,” the lawsuit alleges. “What is more, the governor’s, attorney general’s, and commissioner’s actions threaten to endanger the health and wellbeing of transgender youth in Texas by depriving them of medically necessary care, while communicating that transgender people and their families are not welcome in Texas.”

The family at the center of the lawsuit is one of the first to be investigated under Abbott’s order—and includes a woman who works at the very state agency that looks into complaints of child abuse and is now tasked with carrying out Abbott’s order. The woman has a 16-year-old trans daughter, named “Mary Doe” in the lawsuit, and was placed on leave shortly after the order came out, according to the lawsuit. The family has since been visited by an investigator, the lawsuit alleges.

“Mary has been traumatized by the prospect that she could be separated from her parents and could lose access to the medical treatment that has enabled her to thrive,” the woman wrote in a declaration filed with the lawsuit. “The stress has taken a noticeable toll on her, and our daughter who is typically joyful and happy, is now moodier, stressed, and overwhelmed.”

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Denying trans kids gender-affirming care could endanger their lives. More than half of all trans youth in the United States contemplated suicide in 2020, according to a 2021 survey by the Trevor Project. 

“The Trevor Project’s research demonstrates that trans youth who feel accepted by the adults in their lives—including family members, teachers, and doctors—are less likely to attempt suicide,” Trevor Project CEO and executive director Amit Paley said in a statement provided to VICE News before the Wednesday ruling. “Further, our research found that gender-affirming hormone therapy has been linked to lower rates of depression and suicide risk among trans youth who wanted it.”

Meachum’s temporary restraining order also protects Dr. Megan Mooney, another plaintiff in the lawsuit and a Houston licensed psychologist who treats transgender patients, from being investigated. “Mooney could face civil suit by patients for failing to treat them in accordance with professional standards and loss of licensure for failing to follow her professional ethics if she complies with Defendants’ orders and actions,” Meachum wrote.

Multiple major medical organizations, including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Psychological Association, have all put out guidance that supports gender-affirming health care and opposes political efforts to interfere in it.

“Attempts to cut off transgender adolescents from care will not make them any less trans but it will make them less likely to grow up at all,” Chase Strangio, deputy director for trans justice with the ACLU LGBTQ & HIV Project, said in a statement after the ruling.

Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, counsel at Lambda Legal, called Abbott’s order “truly a betrayal.”

“I think Greg Abbott decided to go after a very vulnerable population for the sake of politics and his own personal biases,” Gonzalez-Pagan told VICE News ahead of the ruling. “But what he is doing is not only morally wrong, it is unlawful and certainly unconstitutional.”

Shortly after the ruling, Texas appealed the lawsuit. Abbott’s office did not immediately reply to a VICE News request for comment.