Gov. Greg Abbott ordered state agencies to investigate any minors receiving gender-affirming care as “abuse.”
The GOP has made little secret of its desire to criminalize, marginalize, and ultimately erase the transgender community from existence — particularly in Texas, where the state’s Republican leadership picked up where their North Carolinian colleagues left off, supercharging the conservative onslaught against an entire community for simply existing. On Tuesday, Texas’s ongoing attack took a seismic leap forward, with a new Republican directive targeting the most vulnerable members of an already persecuted community: transgender children.
In a letter to the head Texas’s Department of Family and Protective Services, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered a host of state agencies to investigate any reports of minors receiving gender-affirming care or treatment as “abuse,” essentially weaponizing the vast infrastructure of Texas’s state government to target and punish children — as well as their parents and any other supportive parties — for the crime of being transgender.
The directive comes just days after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a new, non-binding interpretation of Texas law that declared gender affirmation treatments can now be legally considered “child abuse,” in defiance of the overwhelming bulk of medical research — and an express plea from the state’s pediatric society not to limit access. In a statement accompanying his interpretation, Paxton called gender affirmation treatments “monstrous and tragic.”
“The opinion has a section that says that it is mandatory for teachers, social workers, and others of their duty to report child abuse,” Adri Pèrez, policy and advocacy strategist for LGBTQ+ equality at the Texas ACLU, told NBC News shortly after Paxton released his decision.
“Even though the opinion is not binding, some people could point to this opinion as a reason to report, and that could increase the amount of false reports that we see being done on parents, it could increase bullying and harassment in schools directed toward trans youth, and bullying and harassment directed to their parents and guardians,” Pèrez continued.
That fear of state-backed harassment appeared justified Tuesday, with Abbott’s directive offering the patina of legal backing to Paxton’s non-binding decision. Already, a number of Texas’s municipal law enforcement officials have balked at the order.
“My office will not participate in these bad faith political games,” Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee said in a brief statement from his official Twitter account. “As the lawyers handling these cases, we owe a duty of candor to the courts about what the law really says. We’ll continue to follow the laws on the books — notPaxton’s politically motivated and legally incorrect ‘opinion.’”
Travis County Attorney Delia Garza was even more blunt in rejecting Abbot’s order, telling The Dallas Morning News that “the Republican leadership of this state is trying to turn loving and supportive parents into criminals, and this office will play no part in it.”
While it’s eminently likely that Abbott’s directive will face immediate and intense legal challenges, the fact remains that for the time being, simply existing as a transgender child in Texas — and, given other states’ penchants for using Texas laws as models for their own reactionary legislation, everywhere else too — just got a whole lot scarier.