On February 22, 2022, Governor Abbott penned a letter to the Texas Department of Family Protective Services (“DFPS”) in which he imposed a mandate on the State agency to investigate the parents of children who are undergoing any type of gender transitioning treatment. To call the tone and aim of this letter transphobic would be an understatement.
More importantly, the fact that Governor Abbott felt emboldened enough to send a transphobic order to the DFPS should act as a call to action. The February 22, 2022 letter is a prime example of how far we have come and yet how far we still have to go in the fight for equal rights. It is an example of all the protections we do not have because, in spite of Bostock County being decided by the Supreme Court, our state entities are not bound to follow those guidelines. Governor Abbott had the audacity to direct a state agency and licensed professionals to directly harm LGBTQIA+ children by deeming gender reassignment surgeries and treatment as child abuse. This is a clear sign that the Governor’s office is either indifferent or blind to the trials and tribulations that besiege an already marginalized minority.
In their 2019 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, The Trevor Project found that nearly 1 in 3 transgender and non-binary youth have attempted suicide. Governor Abbott’s directive allows transphobia to become a state policy in the eyes of all the citizens in Texas. This is not by accident; it is a conscious decision to place politics above children’s lives. The worst part is that we have civil rights laws that protect adult employees from discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation, but the civil rights protections do not extend more broadly. While this letter represents a transphobic attitude from the highest seat in the state government, all hope is not lost. The gubernatorial system that is set up in Texas disallows Governor Abbott from directly enforcing the directive through his office. Instead, he is reliant on district attorneys and state agencies to do so. Thus, we are able to put pressure on these individuals to protect trans children and other members of the LGBTQIA+ community.
Ultimately, one must not only fight at the state level though. The protections for the members of the LGBTQIA+ must be done on a national level because Texas is not the only state attempting to enact transphobic and homophobic laws and policies. Governor Abbott’s letter, while damaging, should make it clear that our fight is not over. The members of our community are left without protections for one of the most basic principles: choosing how you fit in your own body. Texas is but one example, but only by continuing to act by donating, voting, and advocating can we turn the tide towards protection, not harm.