Texas and Florida continue competing in their race to be named The Worst State in the U.S. It’s an absolutely exhausting display of anti-LGBTQ+ bigotry, and it’s especially exhausting for LGBTQ+ people and their families. People are under enough stress, damn it. Between the pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, who on earth has time to go out of their way to harm LGBTQ+ people and their families?
Republicans, of course.
In Florida the so-called “don’t say gay” bill passed in the House and will likely pass in the Republican controlled Senate before it goes to the desk of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, a man with as much backbone as a shirt and slacks filled with a few cans of Great Stuff spray foam. Will he take a brave stance and not sign this bill he has already praised? Oh, the suspense.
Meanwhile, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, also a Republican, has ordered the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) to investigate parents for “child abuse” if they are providing trans-related medical care for their trans kid.
In a Feb. 23 statement, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, also an anti-LGBTQ+ creep, said, “There is no doubt that these procedures are ‘abuse’ under Texas law, and thus must be halted. [DFPS] has a responsibility to act accordingly. I’ll do everything I can to protect against those who take advantage of and harm young Texans.”
Everything he can, huh? It doesn’t seem like he’s doing a very good job. According to KXAN, “Two-hundred and fifty-one children in Texas died in 2020 due to abuse and neglect: and these types of incidents are making an unfortunate spike.”
I don’t know who needs to hear this, but child abuse is very serious. We’ve all heard the horror stories about kids who were being abused and fell through the cracks in a system that was supposedly designed to protect them. But if you talk to any case worker at a place like DFPS, I suspect they’re not going to say, “If anything, we have TOO many resources and are doing TOO much for the people we serve. Please add culture-war bullshit to our workload. We are tired of playing hours and hours of spider solitaire on our work computers.”
While there isn’t much in the way of good news here, according to the ACLU, the letter Gov. Abbot sent to DFPS isn’t legally binding.
The letter has “no legal effect, can’t change Texas law, and can’t override the constitutional rights of Texas families. No court anywhere in the country has ever found that gender-affirming care can be considered child abuse,” ACLU wrote in a Feb. 23 tweet.
Still, stigmatizing the parents of trans children as child abusers causes real harm. “Although these materials are not legally binding,” the ACLU tweet continued, “they spread fear and misinformation and could spur false reporting of child abuse at a time when trans youth continue to be threatened by state leadership as part of a politically motivated misinformation campaign.”
In defense of Republicans, “politically motivated misinformation” is, like, their thing. It’s one of the few things they’re good at. So you can’t blame them for trying! I’m kidding, you can totally blame them for trying. This is awful and they should be ashamed of themselves.
But they aren’t. They never are.
Thankfully, there is real pushback against Abbott’s directive. According to NBC News, Christian Menefee, an elected attorney in Harris County who handles civil child abuse cases for DFPS in Harris County, said “My office will not participate in these bad faith political games. 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 — not General Paxton’s politically motivated and legally incorrect ‘opinion.’”
NBC also reports that the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association, and The Endocrine Society all support gender-affirming care, with the The Endocrine Society stating, “Medical evidence, not politics, should inform treatment decisions.”
And we all know how Republicans feel about medical evidence.
No doubt Republicans across the country have plenty of garbage like this up their sleeves. No matter where you live, reach out to the trans folks and families you know. Let them know you’re thinking about them and that there is nothing wrong with them. And vote Republicans out. All of ‘em, everywhere.
D’Anne Witkowski is a writer living in Michigan with her wife and son. She has been writing about LGBTQ+ politics for nearly two decades. Follow her on Twitter @MamaDWitkowski.