Bill of the Week: Texas GOP Targets Transgender Youth

Hundreds gathered to rally against anti-trans legislation Monday, March 27 (Photo by Jana Birchum)

Many LGBTQ advocacy groups in Texas say that if there’s one anti-trans law to rail against this legislative session (and there are dozens), it’s this one: House Bill 1686.

Filed by Rep. Tom Oliverson (R-Cypress), HB 1686 would prohibit physicians and health care providers from administering gender-affirming care, including puberty blockers and hormone therapy, to transgender folks under 18. In addition to mirroring the 30 other states that are considering or have passed laws hindering access to these life-saving treatments, this Texas bill takes it a jackboot step further by revoking the licenses of doctors who prescribe those treatments, denying Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) from paying for such treatment, and empowering the attorney general to punish violators. Side bar: Texas AG Ken Paxton is the same man who equated these medical treatments with “child abuse” in a memo last year.

Not letting their rights be trampled without a fight, the trans community and their allies showed up to the Texas State Capitol in droves Monday afternoon. While the House committee on public health heard testimony for hours on end, hundreds of activists gathered along the outdoor rotunda in protest of not just HB 1686 but over 130 anti-LGBTQ bills filed in the 88th Legislature. Politicians donning rainbow pins, priests with dyed hair, Indigenous Americans in colorful regalia, parents of trans children, trans children, Queer Eye’s Jonathan Van Ness, and countless banner-waving protesters chanted, “Hey hey, ho ho, transphobia has got to go!” At one point, a counter demonstrator shouted, “Child abuse,” to which the trans alliance erupted into a rhythmic, “No place for hate,” until he left 10 minutes later.

Let’s be clear: HB 1686 is not only cruel in singling out a tiny sect of the Texas population, it also infringes on constitutional values of privacy and equal protection. Medical treatment for gender dysphoria cannot be obtained without a trifecta of consent from the minor, their legal guardian, and a licensed practitioner. Puberty blockers, which are prescribed to non-trans adolescents for various reasons, are “medically necessary, age-appropriate, and 100 percent reversible,” according to Cathryn Oakley, state legislative director and senior counsel at the Human Rights Campaign. In a clear attempt to rile up misinformed conservatives, the bill would also ban several surgical procedures – including castration, hysterectomies, and mastectomies – that doctors wouldn’t perform for minors under normal circumstances.

As it stands, 77 Republican state representatives have signed on to HB 1686, just over the 75-vote threshold to surpass a majority on the House floor. The bill’s identical twin in the Senate, SB 14 from Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels), has 12 GOP cosponsors and passed out of the State Affairs Committee, headed toward a 19-12 Republican-dominated upper chamber. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick considers passage of SB 14 a top priority, and Gov. Greg Abbott, who directed the Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate parents of transgender children last year, will almost certainly sign the partisan bill into law should it land on his desk.

Oakley sees trouble further down the road saying, “This kind of legislation would prevent some kids from being able to potentially see a future for themselves at all.”

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