On Monday, a new bill was filed for the upcoming Texas legislative session to create a legal equivalent between the provision of gender-affirming care for minors and child abuse.
Parents who obtain transgender care for their children could face prison; child abuse in Texas is a second-degree felony, which could mean up to 20 years of jail time and up to $10,000 in fines. Currently, the bill has only one sponsor, Rep. Cole Hefner, and as such, it seems unlikely to be taken up in the 88th session. Still, that such a bill was proposed at all is alarming, particularly given the wave of conservative panic over transgender children that has gained traction as a red-meat issue over the past several months.
The bill criminalizes the supply, administration of, or consent to hormone treatments or puberty blockers for minors. Surgery is also criminalized, though there is a carveout for children who are born intersex. In such cases, parents can “pick a gender” for their child and the corresponding surgery will be performed. Erin Reed, a queer legislative researcher and transgender rights activist, points out that intersex activists advise against this route, because it instills the idea that being intersex is a medical flaw.
Earlier this year, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that the state’s child welfare agency is permitted to investigate families that provide gender-affirming care to minors. Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a nonbinding legal opinion in February that equated such care for transgender teens with child abuse.