On Tuesday, February 23, 2022, Texas Governor Greg Abbot issued a letter to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services that directed state agencies to label gender-affirming medical care for transgender children as “child abuse,” issue reporting requirements for medical and educational professionals about transgender children receiving gender-affirming medical care, as well as investigate and criminally charge medical and educational professionals providing gender-affirming care and those who refuse to report them. This letter follows a legal opinion from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton interpreting existing law to label some types of gender affirming care as “child abuse.”
These policies have dire consequences for trans children and those who care for them, including trans children being forcibly removed from loving families, loss of professional licensure and potential imprisonment, and increased stigma against those with a trans identity. Trans children experience anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation at a higher rate than non-trans children, with as many as 52 percent of transgender and nonbinary children reporting that they considered suicide in 2021 and 20 percent reporting that they attempted suicide.
The American Medical Student Association (AMSA) believes that all transgender children have fundamental rights to gender-affirming care, to education about gender identity from home, school, and health care settings, and to safe environments and communities to be open about their gender identity. This is strongly supported by the medical literature, which demonstrates that affirming homes and gender-affirming care are protective against depression and suicidality in transgender youth. These rights and the provision lifesaving care do not constitute “child abuse.” The regressive policy set forth by Governor Abbott will ensure worse mental health and potentially life threatening conditions for trans children across Texas.
AMSA opposes all forms of public and private discrimination based on gender identity.
While we hope that federal courts will find that these Texas state policies are in direct violation of federal civil rights law, the harm done simply in writing this discriminatory letter cannot be overstated.
Actions We Can Take Now:
- Federal laws prohibit discrimination based on sex, among many different factors. The Department of Justice (DOJ) Civil Rights Division enforces these laws. If you or anyone you know experiences denial of gender-affirming care, punishment from your professional field or governing agency for providing gender-affirming care or protecting transgendered children, or criminal charges for any of the aforementioned, you can submit a report to the DOJ Civil Rights Division here: https://civilrights.justice.gov/
- If you live in Texas you can advocate against these policies by contacting your state legislator in the Texas Senate and the Texas House of Representatives and urging them to oppose these policies and pass legislation enshrining the rights of trans children and those who care for, educate, and protect trans children. You can also contact the Office of the Texas Governor and demand a reversal of these policies.
- Finally, you can contact your Senators in the United States Congress and urge them to vote on and pass the Equality Act, to amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to explicitly and comprehensively ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The House of Representatives passed the bill in 2021.
About the American Medical Student Association:
AMSA is the oldest and largest independent association of physicians-in-training in the United States. Founded in 1950, AMSA is a student-governed, non-profit organization committed to representing physicians-in-training, advocating for quality and affordable health care for all, and building the next generation of physician leaders. To join our community, visit amsa.org.
Chief Communications Officer
American Medical Student Association