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Three families in Texas have filed a lawsuit against the state for child abuse investigations into families who provide gender-affirming for their trans children. The plaintiffs are families who have provided such care for their trans children and were then investigated, under the direction of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Governor Greg Abbott.

In February, Texas Attorney General Paxton wrote a non-legally binding opinion that families who provide gender-affirming care for their trans children should be investigated for child abuse. Following that opinion, Texas Governor Greg Abbott directed child welfare agencies to begin investigating families who provide gender-affirming care for their trans children.

Since that time, at least nine Texas families have been under scrutiny for providing gender-affirming care for their trans children. Texas child welfare officials have not commented on the investigations, nor on the legal challenge.

The lawsuit was filed against Texas Governor Greg Abbott, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, and DFPS’ commissioner, Jaime Masters. The plaintiffs are the families, along with national LGBTQIA+ organization PFLAG.

Families of trans children seeking gender-affirming care push back

According to the lawsuit, filed in Travis County, Texas, “The Defendants have, without constitutional or statutory authority, acted to create a new definition of ‘child abuse’ that singles out a subset of loving parents for scrutiny, investigation, and potential family separation.” The plaintiffs are seeking a halt to investigations of families who provide gender-affirming care for their trans children, along with confirmation that such investigations are against Texas law, as well as unconstitutional. 

Transgender children are a vulnerable population, and none more so than Black transgender youth, who face mental and physical health challenges at higher rates than any other population. According to the Trevor Project, Black trans youth contemplate suicide at twice the rate of the Black LGBTQIA population, another at-risk group. 

Meanwhile, while nearly half of all LGBTQIA+ youth seek out mental health care, only 4 in 10 Black LGBTQIA+ youth report finding such care. According to Myeshia Price-Feeney, PhD a Research Scientist for The Trevor Project, “Black LGBTQ youth experience heightened rates of suicidality similar to all LGBTQ youth, but they are accessing professional care at lower rates.”

Dr. Price-Feeney continued, “These troubling findings suggest that existing models of care have failed at providing black LGBTQ youth access to appropriate and acceptable mental health services. We must move past a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to better serve black LGBTQ youth.”

Investigations create anxiety, fear among families

Of course, investigating trans youth and their families only creates more stress and heartache for children and families. One of the children named in the lawsuit, “Tommy,” described his experience being investigated for receiving gender-affirming care.

Tommy was forced to talk to Texas investigators while at school, without his parents present, while his parents were also investigated. According to the lawsuit, ??“Tommy has been traumatized by the prospect that he may be separated from his family, while [his parents] and Tommy’s brothers are also filled with anxiety and worry.”

LGBTQIA+ advocates vow to continue the fight against such investigations. According to Adri Pérez, policy and advocacy strategist at the ACLU of Texas, “We will continue to fight against these baseless attacks on our community. Transgender kids deserve to have life-saving gender-affirming care in Texas, so that they might live safely to grow up to be transgender adults.”

Erika Stone is a graduate student in the Master of Social Work program at the University of Oklahoma, and a graduate assistant at Schusterman Library. A Chess Memorial Scholar, she has a B.A. in Psychology...