Mar 02, 2022

As Texas Republicans Attack Gender-Affirming Health Care, Moms of Trans Children Say They’re Not Backing Down

Reporting Texas

Protesters push back against recent steps taken by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott targeting transgender youth and their parents during a rally Feb. 27, 2022, at the Capitol in Austin, Texas. Laura Ullman/Reporting Texas

Austinite  Karen Krajcer, the mother of a 10-year-old transgender girl, says she’s “freaking out.”

Krajcer is unnerved by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s directive on Feb. 22 telling the Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate reports of transgender youth in Texas receiving gender-affirming health care. Abbott’s letter contends that procedures such as hormonal treatments, gender-aligning surgery or the use of puberty-blockers is child abuse under state law. 

Four days before Abbott’s letter, Attorney General Ken Paxton  issued a non-binding legal opinion that also said gender affirming care for trans youth is child abuse.

On Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas said it had filed a lawsuit to block Abbott’s directive. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a DFPS employee who is a parent of a transgender teenager and has already had an investigator come to their home.

Krajcer’s daughter has gone through a social transition, meaning she’s adopted a new name, uses gender-appropriate pronouns and expresses herself as a girl. “So just affirming her pronouns, connecting her with affirming therapists, that sort of thing. Just allowing her to live her authentic self,” Krajcer said.

“As far as future health care decisions go,” Krajcer said, “we’re taking that just one day at a time with a team of medical professionals, doctors, therapists and, of course, always checking in with our child, finding out what she wants.”

Abbott’s and Paxton’s rhetoric about trans health care for kids, which experts say resonates with the officials’ conservative base, came just before this year’s Republican primary election. On Feb. 28, Abbott’s primary opponents, Allen West and Don Huffines, held a joint press conference and urged Abbott to call a special legislative session so lawmakers can outlaw gender-affirming health care for transgender kids. So far, Abbott has declined to do so, and he easily defeated West and Huffines in Tuesday’s primary.

“I have been on the phone trying to figure out what’s going on, trying to get people answers, trying to calm myself down when I should be with my family,” Krajcer said. “It’s hard. I’m exhausted. I’m not sleeping. I’m stressed. My children can see that it impacts our entire family.”

Krajcer is worried about her trans daughter’s safety in a state with leaders who seem committed to stigmatizing trans people, a group that already is at greater risk of depression, anxiety and suicide.

Protesters encourage others to fight back against Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s recent directive during a rally Feb. 27, 2022, at the Capitol in Austin, Texas. Laura Ullman/Reporting Texas

In 2021,the Trevor Project, a suicide prevention group for LGBTQ youth, reported a record number of crisis contacts coming from young people in Texas. Nearly 40% of those were trans and non-binary youth. Many who contacted the organization said anti-LGBTQ bills then being debated by the Legislature were making them anxious, depressed and even considering suicide. 

Krajcer’s friend, Linzy Foster, is also the mother of a transgender girl in Austin. Together, Krajcer and Foster have spent the past year speaking out against Republican-led measures they say have negatively targeted their trans children.

 “It’s a terrifying prospect to think that somebody is going to come knock on your door and accuse you of child abuse when all you’re really doing is putting all the work in, talking to the experts and listening and trying to make the best decision,” Foster said. “And those decisions are based on, you know, evidence-based health care. This is best-practice health care for our kids.”

Foster says her family is taking her daughter’s gender-affirming care day-by-day. 

I think what a lot of people need to realize is that a lot of times there is a years-long process that goes into this before any real kind of medical intervention or medical health care is concerned,” Foster said. “Prior to that, it’s just, you know, our kids having the support of maybe a psychologist or therapist to talk about things and then making sure they’re at an affirming school and that they are loved and supported.”

Foster says after the discourse from this past week, she’s concerned the Republican Party’s attacks toward trans kids are only going to get worse.

Rachel Gonzales of Dallas has been speaking out against Texas lawmakers who she said are targeting transgender youths like her daughter, Libby, 11, right. Photo courtesy of Rachel Gonzales

Dallas resident Rachel Gonzales, the mother of 11-year-old transgender girl Libby, has been speaking publicly against efforts to target trans Texans since Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s push to ban transgender people from using public restrooms that align with their gender identity in 2017.

Gonzales says the child abuse allegations from Abbott and Paxton are a sign Republican leaders will not back down from targeting the trans community.

Libby’s devastated. She’s … built up a lot of emotional barriers,” Gonzales said. “We’ve been going through this for so many years and in particular the last year was so brutal.” 

“For any family of a transgender youth, I want them to know that they’re not alone, that there’s people across the state who are fighting for them and are here to support them,” she said.

Krajcer and Foster also say they plan to stay in Texas and fight for the rights of trans Texans.

“We deserve to be here. I was born and raised in Houston. My kids were born in San Antonio. Now we’re in Austin,” Krajcer said. “I’m going to stay here and fight as long as my children can be safe.