Texas Is Going to Start Investigating Parents of Trans Kids for Child Abuse

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered the state’s child protection agency to investigate the families of transitioning transgender children.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott speaks during the Houston Region Business Coalition's monthly meeting on October 27, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered the state’s child protection agency to investigate the families of transitioning transgender children for child abuse on Tuesday, an alarming escalation of the attacks on trans kids that are now common among Republican leaders all over the U.S. 

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, also a Republican, authored an opinion Monday stating that gender transition procedures are child abuse under existing Texas state law. The following day, Abbott sent a letter to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services ordering the agency to “conduct prompt and thorough investigations” of families whose children are transitioning.


“Because the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services is responsible for protecting children from abuse, I hereby direct your agency to conduct a prompt and thorough investigation of any reported instances of these abusive procedures in the State of Texas,” Abbott’s letter said. 

Abbott’s letter also notes that professionals who come into contact with children suffering from child abuse are required to report it, including “doctors, nurses, and teachers,” making them criminally liable if they don’t. 

Chase Strangio, an ACLU attorney, called Paxton’s Monday opinion an “absolute nightmare” on Twitter.

“But supporting your kid is NOT child abuse and families will be protected and defended as best we can and if we need to help you get out of Texas, we will do that too,” Strangio tweeted. “I am sorry this is the horrible world we live in.”

Major medical organizations, including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Psychological Association, have issued guidance in support of gender-affirming healthcare and opposing political attempts to cut kids off from it.

Abbott’s letter also singled out “reassignment surgeries that cause sterilization, mastectomies,” and “removals of otherwise healthy body parts” as an apparent cause for concern. But while anti-trans politicians can cite such surgeries as a scare tactic, the reality of gender-affirming healthcare is much more complex. Under current medical guidelines, minors are not supposed to undergo gender-affirming genital surgery. Instead, they may start with a societal transition, use fully reversible puberty blockers, and, once a minor is in their later teen years, potentially use hormone treatments. 


“It’s deeply upsetting that politicians would call it a crime for people to support transgender people in being our whole selves,” Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, the executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, told VICE News in an email. 

“We know that support from family can be life-saving for transgender youth, and the constant attacks on their rights by politicians directly harm their mental health,” Heng-Lehtinen said.

“Trans youth deserve the right to be who they are and to be treated with dignity and respect, things that all people want, regardless of their gender, politics, or background.”

This isn’t the first time that Texas has tried to curb the rights of trans youth. Last year, Abbott signed into law a bill that blocks trans kids from participating in sports that match their gender identity. 

Nor is Texas alone in its attempt to eliminate support for transgender kids. Along with Texas, nine other states have passed laws banning transgender girls from participating in sports. Last year, Tennessee passed a law requiring governments and businesses with multi-person bathrooms to post signs if they allow transgender people to use the bathroom matching their gender identity, the first successful passage of a “bathroom bill” since North Carolina’s House Bill 2, which was repealed in 2017 after the state lost billions of dollars to economic boycotts. 


A state legislator in Florida recently proposed an amendment to the state’s “parental rights in education” bill which would have required schools to out LGBTQ+ students to their parents, but pulled the amendment Tuesday. The broader bill, which has been dubbed “don’t say gay” by opponents, would allow parents to sue school districts which “encourage” conversations about LGBTQ issues in elementary school. 

A 2021 survey by the Trevor Project found that more than half of all transgender youth in the U.S. contemplated suicide in 2020, and that transgender youth who were able to change legal markers to affirm their gender identity reported lower rates of suicide. The same survey found that just a third of queer youth overall found their homes to be LGBTQ+ affirming. 

“Texas parents who support their trans kids should be applauded, not prosecuted. 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. “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. 

“The government should not be involved in personal decisions that force doctors and families to act against the medical community’s standards of care for transgender young people,” Paley said.

Abbott’s office did not immediately respond to a question from VICE News about how his order might impact the mental health of transgender children. 

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