Meredith Carroll: Texas governor’s attack on transgender kids is the real child abuse
Over the past week it has been difficult not to hemorrhage compassion thinking about the parents plagued with the impossible task of protecting their children from a psychopath’s unprovoked attacks. I am not talking about the havoc currently being wreaked by Russian President Vladimir Putin, although the harrowing images of fleeing Ukrainian families bidding panicked goodbyes to the fathers, sons, brothers and husbands staying behind to fight a real war against fictitious claims are no less upsetting. I am talking about Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and his most recent totally unwarranted assault on transgender youth in his state.
On Feb. 22, Abbott issued a letter calling on the general public and “licensed professionals” to report the parents of trans youth receiving gender-affirming care to the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services for “prompt and thorough” child abuse investigations. Texas’ anti-LGBTQ crusade has picked up steam since 2017, which is when the state tried — unsuccessfully — prohibiting trans students from choosing school restrooms and facilities based on their gender. According to Equality Texas, Texas filed more anti-LGBTQ bills in 2021 than any other state legislature, including one that passed in October confining transgender K-12 students to playing on sports teams aligned with the sex listed on their birth certificate.
This weekend it was less complicated explaining to my 10-year-old daughter what is happening 5,000 miles away in Eastern Europe than two states away in Texas. Ukrainians are battling to not die out or die in the wake of Putin’s maniacal power-and-influence grab. Transgender youth in Texas are battling to not be disregarded or discarded in Abbott’s pitiful state-sponsored terrorism campaign.
Thankfully, the ink barely dried on Abbott’s transphobic letter last week when legal experts emerged to make clear distinctions between constitutional rights and the governor’s partisan views, and to cast doubt that any court of law would ever equate gender-affirming care with child abuse. But while the legal threat may be as empty as Abbott’s bucket, an investigation or even just the characterization of gender-affirming care as child abuse can complicate access to treatment and further stigmatize a group already suffering from exponentially high suicide-attempt rates. Texas House Democrats underscored Abbott’s malevolence in a written response to his letter.
“Governor Abbott and his Republican colleagues have made it clear that they have no respect for transgender children or their parents. His latest order is not only full throated assault on transgender rights, but an all out war on the LGBTQ+ community. … It’s cruel and downright disgusting to think that in this day and age basic human rights are being stripped away from children. The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services is already strapped for the resources they need to protect children across our state. Instead of investing in the department to treat legitimate cases of neglect and abuse, the governor has chosen to further exacerbate the problem and create a culture war that is meritless. … If the governor wishes to protect children across the state of Texas he should prioritize strengthening social safety nets, public education and funding to the appropriate agencies.”
Abbott’s letter also prompted a fresh wave of reports that many Texas families with trans kids are considering moving out of state to escape living under a cloud of anxiety and high-powered threats. For his part, Abbott ignored the criticism and instead moved on to Twitter with a new message.
“I’ve asked the members of the Texas Restaurant Association, Texas Package Stores Association & all Texas retailers to voluntarily remove all Russian products from their shelves. Texas stands with Ukraine. #StandWithUkraine,” he tweeted in a performative gesture that stands to affect Russia literally not at all. The same cannot be said, however, for the Texas retailers, restaurants, and small businesses that have already paid Russia — as well as an import tax — for the Russian products their governor is asking them to discard.
While Putin and Abbott may both ultimately fall short of their not-different-enough master plans, in the meantime they are still succeeding in inflicting despotic-like control, unnecessary terror, and doom on the people whose lives they loudly do not value.
“Our state has made it more clear that they’d rather see dead kids than trans kids alive and well,” said Emmett Schelling, executive director for the Transgender Education Network of Texas.
More at MeredithCarroll.com and on Twitter @MCCarroll.