Texas

Texas lawmakers push for gender-affirming care. Will they succeed?

Texas legislators have already introduced dozens of bills aimed at caring for gender, transgender children and their parents.

Proposals are made by Republican lawmakers such as Senator Bob Hall, R-Edgwood.

“It’s caring with love,” Hall told The Texas Newsroom on Thursday. “(It) expresses our love and care for children to enable them to reach maturity where they can make decisions for themselves.”

Hall’s bills are part of a growing effort to pass legislation to ban gender-affirming care in GOP-led states.

State legislators across the country introduced 306 anti-transgender bills in 2020 and 2021, according to an NPR analysis. The vast majority target trans youth.

While Republicans have majorities in the Texas House and Senate, LGBT advocates in the state say that doesn’t mean their proposals are destined to become law.

Anti-trans legislation

Hall’s bills range from banning insurance companies from covering gender reassurance services to revoking the license of a doctor who performs gender reassignment surgery on minors. Its law will apply to those under 18, although Hall said there is talk of expanding it to those under 21.

He also authored a Senate resolution calling for an “end” of gender-affirming aid in Texas.

“We don’t allow kids to get tattoos, drink alcohol, even buy cough medicine from the pharmacy, or smoke,” Hall said. “So why on earth do we let them cut off their body parts—healthy body parts?”

While such arguments may make sense to some, research confirms the importance of giving trans children access to gender-affirming care.

According to the Harvard School of Public Health. T. H. Chana, “gender-affirming surgery is associated with numerous positive health benefits, including lower levels of psychological stress and suicidal thoughts, and lower rates of smoking.”

Meanwhile, Columbia University’s Department of Psychiatry reported that transgender and non-binary children who do not have access to this care are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts than their cisgender peers. Those who have access, there is generally a reduction in gender dysphoria, depression, and anxiety.

Other bills submitted to the Texas Legislature address drag shows, defining them as sexually oriented businesses.

This will mean that minors will not be allowed to attend events with drag queens, and venues will be subject to investigation by the Texas Comptroller.

In total, more than 40 such bills are under consideration by state legislators.

“I think it’s disturbing to see how much has been filed.” said Jonathan Gooch, director of communications for Equality Texas. “These bills touch every aspect of life for LGBT Texans.”

Gooch told The Texas Newsroom that the proposals are part of a list of “invasive” laws introduced by Republicans in state government.

He said lawmakers have a tendency to fetishize the lives of LGBT people and that their perception is starkly different from how these Texans actually live.

“Honestly, most LGBTQ Texans are boring,” Gooch said. “They just want to live their lives, enjoy our beautiful state and have a good barbeque.”

Gooch said people pushing for restrictive policies don’t understand what Texans really want, and there’s some evidence to back that up.

According to a 2022 poll by LGBT advocacy group Trevor Project and Morning Consult, 45 percent of Texas voters support transgender minors with access to gender-affirming assistance.

Meanwhile, 31% opposed the provision of these services.

State Representative James Talarico, Democrat of Round Rock, said Republican lawmakers are focusing on the wrong priorities.

“We’re talking about the impact on transgender children and their families, and it’s terrible,” Talarico said. “But there is also an opportunity cost because we only have five months of the year to try and solve all the huge problems our state is facing.”

He said Texans who support LGBT rights shouldn’t feel defeated after seeing what bills have been introduced and points to 2021.

That same year, over 70 anti-LGBT bills were introduced during the last Texas legislative session and the special sessions that followed. But only one — a law that bans transgender athletes from participating in school sports teams that match their gender identity — has become law.

“We must not give up because you can fight here in this building,” said Talarico. “This is a Republican-dominated legislature and bad things will happen, but there is absolutely every opportunity to weaken bills, to destroy them, to slow bills, and there is also the opportunity to change hearts and minds.”

Copyright 2023 CUT 90.5. To see more, visit KUT 90.5.



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