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Social Media v. the State of Texas (or No Good Deed Goes Unpunished)

This past week, Governor Greg Abbott of Texas issued a statement that he would be enforcing Texas laws against gender modification of minors. Abbott’s announcement is based on the opinion from the state Attorney General and his application of a current law known as the Texas Family Code. As an attorney and the parent of a child who was abused by the gender medical industry, I was relieved to see the Governor and Attorney General of one of the largest and most important states in the nation confirming what I already knew.

Predictably, the Governor’s statement was decried by Trans Rights Activists (TRAs) and physicians who make a living from medical transition of children. However, I was surprised to hear condemnation from people who know well the dangers of performing these life-altering “treatments” and experimental procedures on children.

I’m concerned that perhaps there’s a misunderstanding about how the law works in the United States.

Twitter v. the State of Texas

One commenter Tweeted that Texas is making “gender affirming” care illegal (isn’t that what parents want?), while Sweden takes an evidence-based approach. However, this assertion ignores the 13-page opinion issued by the Texas AG, who cited evidence FROM SWEDEN on page 4 of his opinion. This evidence was part of the basis for the conclusion that medical transition has not been proven effective in alleviating gender dysphoria…and, in fact, suicide rates increase after transition. Another Tweet labeled the Governor’s declaration “part of the culture war.” But is child abuse a cultural issue? In my opinion, it’s a moral issue, and a state has the right and obligation to protect its most vulnerable residents, such as children. The state does this by passing laws and enforcing its laws; there is no function of the state that is more important.

Another Tweet read that instead of banning or criminalizing treatment, some countries are taking a more cautious approach. However, Sweden’s Karolinska Hospital, well-known for its long history of sex reassignment procedures, is taking a similar approach and its National Board of Health is calling for doctors to stop medical transition of minors. Their rationale? The “risks of anti-puberty and sex-confirming hormone treatment for those under 18 currently outweigh the benefits for the group as a whole.” The Texas AG echoed this sentiment in his opinion while also citing the changes in law in the UK and practice guidelines in Finland (where medical care is centralized). But for some reason, limitations on treatment are only acceptable when they come from Sweden and other countries – not Texas.

Many TRAs and even some fellow parents have also alleged the Governor is threatening to lock up trans kids and their parents. This is hyperbole of the sort we typically hear from TRAs, and there’s nothing in the Governor’s statement that indicates any desire to do this. As a practical matter, neither Texas nor any other state has the staff to seek out and arrest the thousands of Texas parents who are currently consenting to gender treatments for their kids. As a lawyer, I find this suggestion far-fetched and unrealistic, and designed to alarm the public – we as parents don’t need to do the TRAs work for them by magnifying these allegations. The target of the AG’s opinion is clearly the providers, who might mislead parents into believing these treatments are necessary and effective, not the parents who are merely taking a doctor’s advice. This is not to say that parents cannot be investigated, but parents suspected of committing or facilitating child abuse always face the possibility of investigation. Some of our own member parents have even been investigated by Child Protective Services for NOT affirming a child’s newly declared gender. None of these parents ultimately lost their children to CPS, and Parents who honestly relied on bad advice from a predatory gender doctor can use that defense and are unlikely to be prosecuted.

The Texas Family Code Decoded

The Texas Family Code (the most recent iteration of which was enacted in 2005) was established well before the AG and Governor issued their statements last week. In fact, last August, the Texas Commissioner of Family and Protective Services, Jaimie Masters, issued an opinion in response to a request for clarification from the Governor, determining that surgeries on children for the purpose of sex reassignment constituted child abuse under the Texas Family Code (and the Texas Penal Code). No TRAs seemed to notice, and no parent groups complained that this would cause a witch-hunt for parents who allowed their kids to have surgery. No law was changed; just as with Abbott’s recent pronouncement, the Commissioner simply issued a clarification of the law.

Representative Matt Krause then asked the AG to clarify whether the Commissioner’s determination applied to puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones, since they can also have devastating and irreversible consequences for young patients. The AG’s office thoroughly researched the issue and expressed in his opinion from February 18th that these experimental treatments also constitute child abuse.

No new law was passed. No one ordered prosecutors to round up parents and children, or even the unethical doctors. But this time, the enforcement of child abuse laws is suddenly controversial. News on the issue from National Public Radio, The New York Times, and Washington Post all follow the same old anxiety-inducing script, describing this as an “assault” on children of “terrified parents.” This language is used in order to engage readers’ emotions and impede the rational part of the brain that could actually think critically about what has been written by the AG. Of course the American Civil Liberties Union was quick to file a lawsuit suggesting that the statement from the AG was aiming to prohibit “gender-affirming healthcare” that is “medically necessary, saves lives, and shouldn’t be the subject of an investigation.” More emotions; less rational thought.

Child abuse laws in Texas are robust and are to be interpreted broadly because of the vulnerable nature of the persons the law is designed to protect – children. Yet, Texas laws aren’t materially different from the laws against child abuse in most other states. It’s commonplace, for instance, to require that anyone who knows about or facilitates child abuse must either report it to authorities or that person can be reported himself. There is no exception for abuse in the form of gender modification, nor do most of us want one. Child abuse by parents, doctors, or anyone else was illegal well before thousands of Texas children suddenly announced transgender identities and fell prey to social media gender influencers, internet porn and indiscriminate medical transition by gender doctors, and the AG’s opinion does not change this.

The AG’s opinion changes nothing regarding a parent’s duty to protect his/her child. If a parent knows a doctor is administering treatments that are unnecessary AND can cause irreversible damage to the child, the parent has a duty to prevent it, and under the law as clarified, parents now have a vehicle to report the doctor who offers these treatments to a child, or a therapist who pressures a child to think she is born in the wrong body. Hypothetically, if a child has a mental condition that includes fixation on her arm as evil, and a therapist refers her to a doctor who agrees to remove her arm, we would probably agree that the therapist and doctor should be reported as child abusers. If the parent allows the child’s arm to be removed for no medical reason, the parent is complicit in the child abuse. Why should the standard be different regarding castration (chemical or physical) or injecting testosterone into a girl whose voice will irrevocably change to a man’s voice? The Governor’s order merely clarifies that these abuses will be treated equally under the law. Would the voices of criticism prefer that the state NOT enforce its child abuse laws?

Irreversible Damage Averted

Let's be honest. Every parent knows that subjecting his/her child to unnecessary medical treatments that cause irreversible damage, with no discernible medical benefit, is abuse. Most of us even struggle with subjecting our child to medical treatment that IS necessary if it causes discomfort or pain. But these treatments are not medically necessary, nor is there evidence that they are effective. Every parent can see that castrating a boy or subjecting a girl to a mastectomy causes harm. These “treatments” cause physical pain; they cause deformity of the chil