Trans rights groups pledge Texas lawsuit over gender-affirming care ban: ‘Anti-science, discriminatory fear-mongering’

The second-largest state in the nation, home to thousands of young transgender people, is likely to force trans youth to detransition and prohibit minors from accessing gender-transitioning healthcare.

Legislation in Texas that will ban doctors from providing affirming care to transgender children is headed to the desk of Republican Governor Greg Abbott after the bill’s final passage in the state Senate on 17 May.

Texas – home to an estimated 30,000 trans teens between the ages of 13 and 17 – is likely to join at least 18 other states that have enacted laws or policies banning gender-affirming care for young trans people, and several others have considered taking similar measures against what advocates and major medical groups have called medically necessary and potentially life-saving care.

A coalition of LGBT+ advocates and civil rights groups have pledged to sue Texas to block the ban, if signed into law, on the heels of the state’s widely derided attempt in 2022 to classify such care as child abuse.

“We will be filing a lawsuit to protect transgender youth in Texas from being stripped of access to healthcare that keeps them healthy and alive,” according to a statement from Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, and the Transgender Law Center.

The state’s attempts to investigate families with trans children has been blocked in the courts, but “Texas lawmakers have seen fit to double down, creating untold harm on Texas families”, according to the groups pledging to sue the state.

“They are hellbent on joining the growing roster of states determined to jeopardize the health and lives of transgender youth, in direct opposition to the overwhelming body of scientific and medical evidence supporting this care as appropriate and necessary,” they added. “We will defend the rights of transgender youth in court, just as we have done in other states engaging in this anti-science and discriminatory fear-mongering.”

Texas Senate Bill 14 bans physicians from providing what is the only evidence-based care for gender dysphoria for trans people under age 18 and would strip them of their medical licences if practising in violation of the law.

Trans youth who are currently receiving such care must “wean off” any drugs they are taking and will not legally be allowed to begin any new course of treatment, according to the bill.

Such bans are opposed by major health groups including the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Most treatments that make up gender-affirming care regimens – which are also regularly prescribed to cisgender people – include hormone replacement therapies and puberty blockers. Affirming surgeries among trans youth are exceedingly rare.

“I am floored by the cruelty and moral hypocrisy of this bill,” Marti Bier, vice president of programs at Texas Freedom Network, said in a statement after the initial House vote.

“Members of our state legislature are determined to insert themselves in the private health decisions made between loving, affirming families and their trusted medical providers,” they added.

Earlier this week, Dell Children’s Medical Center in Austin announced to parents that “physicians who previously staffed the clinic will be departing” and reportedly stopped transition-related care to trans teenagers, according to parents.

“We are working with our staff, families, and other providers to ensure our patients’ safety and make sure we are helping families connect with the appropriate healthcare services,” the hospital said in a statement. “While the physicians who previously staffed the clinic will be departing, the clinic remains open and supported by other physicians within Dell Children’s Medical Group.”

The statement and message to parents followed an announcement from Attorney General Ken Paxton to investigate “potentially illegal” at the hospital. The investigation appears to have been in response to a video report from right-wing activist group Project Veritas.

After joining Republican lawmakers to support the Texas ban on gender-affirming care, Democratic state Rep Shawn Thierry – one of three Texas House Democrats who also joined GOP lawmakers – is facing a formal censure from a Democratic group in her district. She was also among a dozen Democratic lawmakers who voted in favour of a book-banning bill that is likely to target materials by and about LGBT+ people.

Hundreds of bills aimed at LGBT+ people, particularly young trans people, have been filed in nearly every state within the last several years, part of a growing campaign among Republican lawmakers wielding anti-trans attacks for political agendas that dominate GOP platforms heading into 2024.

The legislation threatens age-appropriate, medically necessary and potentially life-saving care for more than half of all trans youth in the US between the ages of 13 and 17, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

That onslaught of legislation and the volatile political debate surrounding the bills have also negatively impacted the mental health of an overwhelming majority of young trans and nonbinary people, according to polling from The Trevor Project and Morning Consult.

A separate survey from The Trevor Project found that 41 per cent of trans and nonbinary youth have seriously considered attempting suicide over the last year.

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