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Texas Republicans' obsession with trans children's bodies faces lawsuit

Gov. Greg Abbott's directive for state agencies to investigate transgender kids' parents and doctors is being challenged in court.


UPDATE (March 3, 2022, 9:58 a.m. ET): A Texas judge on Wednesday temporarily blocked the state’s investigation into the parents a transgender teen currently suing Gov. Greg Abbott over his new anti-trans directive.

The legal fight to curb Texas Republicans’ assault on transgender children and their parents is officially underway. On Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit meant to stop Gov. Greg Abbott's directive calling for investigations into some trans children's parents and health care providers.

The suit — filed on behalf of a 16-year-old trans girl, her parents and a psychologist who works with trans youth — accused Abbott's order of unlawfully defining gender-affirming care for minors as "child abuse."

Attacking the existence of trans people — let alone their access to adequate health care — is a central focus in the conservative movement.

Abbott, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Texas Department of Family and Protective Services Commissioner Jaime Masters are attempting to "legislate by press release" after the state Legislature failed to criminalize gender-affirming care, according to the lawsuit.

The defendants lacked the constitutional authority "to create a new definition of ‘child abuse’ that singles out a subset of loving parents for scrutiny, investigation, and potential family separation," the suit stated.

The mother listed as a plaintiff in the lawsuit is a DFPS employee and has been placed on leave because her daughter is being treated for gender dysphoria, according to the complaint. The mother is also under investigation by the department, her lawyers said.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has directed state agencies to investigate trans children's parents and health care providers.Alex Wong / Getty Images, File

Abbott’s plans to use state agencies to target trans kids and their parents was immediately met with blowback from health care professionals, legal experts and politicians across the country. 

"Trans youth continue to be threatened in Texas by state leadership as part of a politically motivated misinformation campaign that harms children," the ACLU of Texas said in a statement last week.

The White House also denounced Abbott’s directive.

“Conservative officials in Texas and other states across the country should stop inserting themselves into health care decisions that create needless tension between pediatricians and their patients,” principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.

These views are backed by the American Medical Association, which last year urged state officials not to interfere with children receiving gender transition-related care. The association said such policies constitute “a dangerous intrusion into the practice of medicine.”

The psychological impact of marginalizing trans kids like Texas Republicans are aiming to do is well documented. Trans children experience disproportionately high rates of anxiety, depression and suicidality, according to research from the Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health

Nonetheless, attacking the existence of trans people — let alone their access to adequate health care — is a central focus in the conservative movement. I’ve written on previous attempts in Texas and Florida to bar trans children from playing youth sports and to bar teachers from even discussing gender identity with young students. Similar efforts by conservatives are taking hold across the country.

Just last week, Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., released his idea for a GOP policy platform that, among other nonsensical statements, claimed “there are two genders, and to deny that is to deny science.”

Statements and policies like these are designed to enforce rigid definitions of gender, because the conservative movement believes in rigid gender roles for men and women. That mission has given rise to the movement’s sick invasion of trans children’s lives and a troubling obsession with their bodies.