© 2020 Texas Public Radio
Real. Reliable. Texas Public Radio.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Texas

Demonstrators gather at the Texas Capitol to protest Paxton's opinion on health care for trans youth

Demonstrators rally Tuesday against the attorney general's opinion stating some health care for trans children should be considered child abuse.
Gabriel C. Pérez
/
KUT
Demonstrators rally Tuesday against the attorney general's opinion stating some health care for trans children should be considered child abuse.

Hundreds of people gathered outside the state Capitol on Tuesday to protest Attorney General Ken Paxton's recent opinion that some gender-affirming health care for trans youth should be considered child abuse.

Kassandra Anaya and her husband, Jay Cortez, drove from Waco with their two kids to attend the rally. Cortez is trans; Anaya identifies as queer.

"Our children are gender fluid and are raised to believe that we have to stand up for everyone's rights," Anaya said.

The family, which moved to Texas from California in October, said the difference between their lives in the two states is stark.

"In California, it's a little bit easier to be who you are," Cortez said. "In Texas it's harder, especially insurance wise."

Pediatrician Uchenna Lizmay Umeh, who has a child who is trans, traveled to the rally from San Antonio. She said Paxton, Gov. Greg Abbott and anyone who agrees with them don't understand what "gender-affirming health care" is.

She said the most common practice is to give a trans teen puberty blockers, which prevent some of the irreversible changes from puberty — such as voice changes or developing an Adam's apple or breasts. That buys the child time as they navigate their chosen gender.

"Below the age of 18, we really shouldn't be doing any gender-affirming surgeries," Umeh said.

Puberty blockers do not cause any permanent changes, she said, so if a child stops taking the medicine their body will progress through puberty as it would have before.

Demonstrators hold signs in support of trans youth at a rally at the Capitol.
Gabriel C. Pérez
/
KUT
Demonstrators hold signs in support of trans youth at a rally at the Capitol.

Umeh says this kind of health care is not child abuse and that preventing children from receiving it could cause mental health issues among trans youth.

"When you support your child and they say you are being abusive and you can be arrested, you can see how that’s whack," Umeh said. "And so what’s going to happen is suicide rates are going to go up. It’s already higher among transgender kids. It’s going to go even higher."

The medical community has also noted the suicide rate among trans youth is much higher than that of those who are not transgender and said physical and mental health care related to gender identity can save lives

Paxton's opinion is not legally binding; it is merely his determination of how child abuse laws in Texas should be interpreted. District attorneys from around the state, including in Travis County, wrote a letter to Paxton saying they were "deeply disturbed" by this opinion. The letter said the DAs would not prosecute parents who allow their children to receive this type of care.

But, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday by the ACLU and other groups, the state has already started investigating families who have sought this care for their children. One parent of a family being represented works for the state office that investigates child abuse claims.

"We are terrified for Mary’s health and wellbeing, and for our family," the parent, who was not named, said in the lawsuit filing. "I feel betrayed by my state and the agency for whom I work."

The Austin Independent School District said last week it will continue to protect trans students and is not advising teachers and staff to do anything differently when it comes to reporting child abuse. The district said it will not report parents who allow their trans children to receive this type of health care.

Paxton's opinion, which received support from Abbott, comes after the Legislature failed to pass a bill that would make it illegal for children to receive gender-affirming care.

Copyright 2022 KUT 90.5. To see more, visit KUT 90.5.