Health & Science

Texas Bills Targeting Transgender Health Care For Children Stall This Session

After missing a key deadline on Sunday evening, six bills seeking to ban transgender health care now appear to have died this legislative session. But advocates aren’t celebrating yet.

Lisa Stanton, front right, with her transgender girl, joins other parents of transgender children and supporters of transgender rights join in the capital outdoor rotunda to speak about transgender legislation being considered in the Texas House and Texas Senate, Wednesday, April 14, 2021, in Austin, Texas.

The final two bills seeking to ban transgender health care for minors — legislation that critics say has promoted discrimination and threatened the mental health of trans kids — appeared to fizzle out in the state Legislature late Sunday evening after weeks of pushback from families and advocates.

A bevy of bills filed this legislative session sought to ban such care, although medical experts overwhelmingly support access to these services. The bills would have rewritten the definition of child abuse to include parents who allow their children to access transition care or have stripped doctors providing this care of their licenses and liability insurance.

Although the health care bills have missed a key deadline to advance, opponents of the legislation say they are looking out for possible amendments tacked onto unrelated bills that could still restrict access to trans kids.

Whether or not the bills are passed into law, they have had a profound impact on the transgender community in Texas, said Angela Hale, a spokesperson for Equality Texas.

"The discussion that is taking place is very damaging to trans children," Hale said. "The results are that trans children feel like they don't belong, like they are not worthy of fighting for."

Opponents publicly fought the bills as they advanced in Austin, testifying at committee hearings against the proposals.

But advocates say they only feel a slight sense of relief: One additional bill that would make transgender kids play on the sports teams that match their sex assigned at birth is still up for a vote by the House.

"We are relieved that the most dangerous pieces of legislation targeting trans children are dead, but we’re concerned about SB 29," Hale said. "I don’t want to have to look into the eyes of these parents who have poured their hearts out fighting for their kids and tell them that their state leaders have failed them."

The lawmakers who wrote the bills have argued that Texans younger than 18 aren't old enough to make these decisions — though some advocates protesting the legislation have also argued that this line of reasoning further stigmatizes the intersex community by carving out an exception in narrow circumstances.

"I’m very happy that these bills failed," said Alicia Roth Weigel, an intersex advocate in Austin. "But until the broader community becomes aware and knowledgeable on intersex issues, then I feel like these bills will continue to come back and and sometimes pass under people’s noses without even realizing."

During the legislative session, children have openly expressed fear of their parents going to jail. Some families said they'd be forced to move out of Texas if these bills passed.

Indigo Giles, a non-binary teenager from Houston, described this session as "disheartening," "frustrating" and "traumatic." They're still on edge and will be for some time.

Indigo Giles on the campus of the University of Texas in Austin, TX on Apr. 27, 2021. Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT News

"I almost can’t let myself have hope," Giles said. "SB 29 is still out there, so even with the victories, the fight isn’t over. And we don’t know what’s going to happen with this special session."

After this legislative session, Giles plans to spend the summer goofing off with their sibling and going on a road trip to see friends perform a musical in Austin.

"I need to remind myself that I can be a normal teenager and do chill things because I’ve been ‘on' for seven weeks now," Giles said. "So I'll get to switch ‘off' and just be Indi, instead of like ‘Indigo Giles: Teen Advocate.'"

Subscribe to Today in Houston

Fill out the form below to subscribe our new daily editorial newsletter from the HPM Newsroom.

* required

Share