In an opinion Monday, Ken Paxton, Texas Attorney General, stated that providing gender-affirming care to minors is child abuse.
He stated Monday that medical care such as hormone therapy, hormonal blockers and gender-affirming surgery, like puberty blocking drugs, which temporarily halt puberty, "must be stopped". He said that Texas Department of Family and Protective Services had "a responsibility to act accordingly."
Paxton stated that he would do all he could to protect young Texans from those who exploit and harm them. The opinion was released in response to a question from Matt Krause (a Republican state representative) about whether transgender treatment could be considered child abuse.
An opinion of an attorney general is an interpretation that does not change existing law.
This issue was part of , a lengthy back-and-forth among Paxton and Gov. After the failed passage of a bill by the state legislature last, Greg Abbott and Department of Family and Protective Services failed to pass it, the issue was brought up again by Paxton and Gov.
Paxton and those who support restrictions claim that gender-affirming treatment is "experimental" and that minors cannot consent to it. Advocates point out that these efforts are against the guidance of all major medical organizations, including the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics. These organizations state that gender-affirming treatment is necessary for transgender youth. This is supported by decades of research.
Adri Perez is a policy and advocacy strategist at the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas for LGBTQ equality. She said that Paxton's view was politically motivated. Perez, who uses gender neutral pronouns, pointed out that Paxton's opinion was released by the attorney general just before the March 1 Republican primary election. This is one of the most competitive primaries Paxton has ever faced.
His opponents have highlighted his recent legal problems: Paxton is currently awaiting trial on charges of Securities Fraud in 2015. He is also being investigated by the FBI for allegations of corruption and abuse of office. Paxton's office did not respond to a request for comment.
Perez also stated that attorney general opinions do not have legal binding force.
They stated that Ken Paxton's views on the matter, regardless of their validity, did not change how a court should or would analyze these issues. "And as of today there is no Texas court or country that has ever ruled that gender-affirming child care can be considered child abuse."
Perez stated that the opinion could have dangerous consequences for transgender youth.
They stated that the opinion contains a section that requires teachers, social workers, and other personnel to report child abuse. "So, even though the opinion does not have binding force, people can point to it as a reason for reporting, which could increase the number of false reports made on parents, bullying and harassment at schools directed towards trans youth and harassment directed at their guardians and parents."
Perez stated that many parents of trans children in Texas have been subject to false reports, which have led investigators to investigate. Investigators have always trusted parents and doctors who support gender-affirming care.
They said that the language in the bill and the letter they wrote last year had created fear in the community.
Annaliese Cothron said that her trans 9-year old child has been supported by her, but she still lives in fear.
She stated that she believes that this is exactly the intention. The intention is to cause harm and to encourage people to report Texas families who provide evidence-based medically needed care for their children. It's encouraging them to be attacked, harmed, and eventually abused by the Texas system. "I live in fear of what could happen to my family."
After hearing about other trans families in Texas, she decided to transfer her children to a private school. Abbott also signed an October bill banning trans student-athletes form participating in public school sports teams that are aligned with their gender identity.
"It was really unfortunate that they had to put them in a different setting away form sports and such like, because who wants tell their child that you're not allowed to play something so basic like a school sport?" she stated, adding that the new school is about an hour from their San Antonio home. "But that's what we had to do now to protect our children."
Linzy Foster, another Austin parent, stated that reading Paxton's opinion gave her an "old feeling anxiety and rage" which she experienced throughout last year when she visited Capitol about a dozen more times to advocate for her trans daughter , aged eighteen, during a time when Texas was considering more than 50 anti-trans laws.
Foster spoke out about Paxton, saying that Paxton wants to be reelected and is using trans children as prey to do so. It feels like harassment or abuse. It feels like all of this is happening at the expense our children, which doesn't make any sense.
She said that Paxton's opinions and the rhetoric that it uses, such as calling gender-affirming care "forced sterilization", spread misinformation and fuel hatred that trans youth and their families already experience. She pointed out that medical advice does not recommend gender confirmation surgery for transgender persons until they reach the age of legal consent in most states.
In a Tuesday statement, the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (a non-profit group) also condemned Paxton.
The group stated that targeting trans youths, their parents and their health care providers to gain political advantage is unacceptable. We strongly condemn this misguided and alarmist opinion that could block access to medically required care. This is another example of the deep misunderstanding of transgender people's lives and the profound lack of compassion for those who need responsible medical care to help them thrive and contribute to society.
The Department of Family and Protective Services could be sued if it implements Paxton's opinion. Only Arkansas and Tennessee have passed restrictions on transgender medical care. A federal judge stopped Arkansas' law being implemented in July.
Cothron stated that even though Texas has been repeatedly attacking families like hers she still wants to send a clear signal: "My family exists, we deserve to be there, and trans people deserve the right to thrive and exist in Texas." "I shouldn't have to leave my community to live in peace. My children deserve peace, dignity, autonomy, and the government should not attack them as individuals.