Texas continues to remove LGBTQ prevention resources from state websites

Advocates claim the move is dangerous for queer young people in the state, particularly in light of Gov. Greg Abbott's directive regarding gender-affirming care of transgender minors.

Texas continues to remove LGBTQ prevention resources from state websites

Texas Department of Health and Human Services seems to have taken resources from the suicide prevention website for LGBTQ youths.

The webpage featured a subhead for Trevor Project on February 1. It described it as "the leading organization providing crisis intervention services and suicide prevention services for lesbian, gay and bisexual young people under 25."

The section was removed a few days later on February 5, 2005. Only The Trevor Project was the only one to be removed from the four suicide prevention text or phone lines.

There are now three crisis lines: the Suicide Prevention Lifeline (Veterans Crisis Line), and the Crisis Text Line (Crime Text Line). The Trevor Project's number is still listed in the PDF of resources under "Parent and Youth Suicide Prevention", but it's not as easy to find as it was before. It also doesn't mention that The Trevor Project has LGBTQ-specific organizations.

The Health and Human Services Department did not respond to a request for comment.

Sam Ames, director for advocacy and government affairs at The Trevor Project said that mental health isn't a partisan issue and that removing suicide prevention resources on a government site "because they are specifically for LGBTQ youth" is dangerous.

Ames cited research from the Trevor Project to say that "we're talking about a bunch of young people who are more four-times as likely try to commit suicide than their peers." The group also found that over 80 percent of LGBTQ youths believed it important to have a crisis line that is focused on young LGBTQ people.

Ames stated that, "Especially in this time of unprecedented political attacks on LGBTQ youth," he encouraged all youth-serving agencies and government agencies to learn about The Trevor Project's lifesaving emergency services and to make them available to families and youth who are most in need."

It's not the first time Texas officials have taken suicide prevention resources for LGBTQ youths, and The Trevor Project specifically, from state websites.

After a criticism from Gov. Greg Abbott's Republican primary challengers had criticised Texas officials and removed a webpage entitled "gender identity and orientation" and a page dedicated to Texas Youth Connection. This program was run by the Department of Family and Protective Services and included a link for The Trevor Project.

An error message still appears on the page about sexual orientation and gender identity. The Texas Youth Connection website displays the same message as it did in October: "The Texas Youth Connection website was temporarily disabled for a thorough review of its contents," says the website. This is to ensure that the website's information, resources, as well as referrals, are up-to-date.

Patrick Crimmins was the director of communications at the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. He stated in October that the review of webpages was "still ongoing" and refused to comment further on why the pages were taken down. He has not yet responded to my request for information about when or if the pages will be restored.

Cameron Samuels, a senior at Seven Lakes High School, Katy, is an activist who said that the removal of LGBTQ-specific information from Texas state websites was "part of this larger assault on LGBTQ youth in Texas."

Samuels, who uses gender neutral pronouns in his speech, said that this "larger attack" is causing widespread fear among trans persons in Texas. They cited a directive by Abbott last week, which called for the state's child protection services agency to investigate parents of minors receiving child abuse-prevention care. Abbott's directive called for "licensed professionals" as well as the general public, to report parents of trans minors who are receiving gender-affirming care.

The state Legislature reviewed 50 anti-trans bills last year. Abbott signed one banning transgender girls from participating in school sports.

Samuels also opposed the censorship of LGBTQ sites within their school district, Katy Independent School District.

They said that the district had removed the block on the website of the Montrose Center in December after student activism. removed restrictions on three national organizations in January: the Human Rights Campaign (the largest LGBTQ advocacy group in America); GLSEN, which advocates to LGBTQ students; and PFLAG which supports LGBTQ people, their families, and other sites.

Samuels stated that the district "continued to insist" that The Trevor Project be blocked because of its chat function. They also noted that students can use the chat function to communicate with a counselor.

Although the district has not responded to a request for comment in writing, an official informed Houston Chronicle that the Children's Internet Protection Act requires "safe communications, including electronic mail, chat room and other forms, of direct electronic communication."

Maria Corrales DiPetta is the manager of media relations at the district. She stated that "The Trevor Project website offers a space for young LGBTQ people to get advice and support in an international community for LGBTQ youth ages 13-24." Unmonitored online communication between minors and adults is a concern. CIPA provides guidelines for chat rooms and communication.

Samuels stated that it was disappointing to see Health and Human Services officials make decisions that are "very harmful to students and young people they represent."

They stated that this was in addition to the governor’s efforts to investigate trans youth parents for child abuse and to take out LGBTQ books from school library." It's very disturbing and concerning to see this.

CORRECTION March 2, 2022 at 3:50 p.m. ET: An earlier version of this article misidentified the month in which the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services took down two websites that contained resources for LGBTQ youths. It was August and not October.

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