Preventing Trans Kids from Accessing Care Is Wrong
The psychological literature refutes the damaging executive order in Texas.
Posted February 25, 2022 | Reviewed by Tyler Woods
- The executive order is unsupported by research in medicine, psychology, sociology, education.
- Transgender youth are at elevated risk for suicide.
- Threatening mandated reporters with criminal penalties creates a chilling effect for professionals working with youth.
On Thursday, February 24, 2022 the Governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, issued an executive order (EO) threatening to pursue child abuse charges against any adult who provides access to clinical care that affirms transgender youth and criminal penalties against professionals who have knowledge of the care and fail to report it. Several District Attorneys issued a statement declaring: "We will enforce the Constitution and will not irrationally and unjustifiably interfere with medical decisions made between children, their parents, and their medical physicians." While the stance of the District Attorneys is an important step, the damage inflicted by this EO is far-reaching and immediate. It signals to trans youth and families in Texas that their lives are up for debate and their governor is actively preventing them from accessing basic care necessary for their well-being.
Research doesn't support the EO
While some debate the legality of this mandate, I want to address the importance of heeding lessons learned from years of research about and by transgender people. First, we know that transgender youth are at extremely elevated risk for suicide, drug and alcohol abuse, and dropping out of school (Dickey and Budge 2020, GLSEN 2021). Minority stress theory contends that this is largely due to the pervasive transphobia they experience in our society. Public statements such as this EO exacerbates this transphobia and the negative conditions impacting the lives of transgender people.
Second, we know that delaying or denying social transition and related health supports for transgender people leads to significant negative health and educational outcomes throughout their lives. We also know that when young people’s identities are affirmed and they are supported in their gender identities, they have much better health and educational outcomes (Pyne, 2014). Social transition is when a person starts living as their affirmed gender without undergoing any clinical treatment. In most cases, children socially transition with the support of their family, health care team, and school professionals (Slesaranksy, Poe, et al., 2013) and is a first step before starting any further clinical treatments to support their gender identity. By threatening a child’s entire support network with child abuse investigations, the Texas governor creates unnecessary barriers and potential long-term harms for many children in his state.
Third, implicating all mandated reporters (teachers, medical professionals, etc.) with criminal penalties for failing to report creates a chilling effect for any professional who comes in contact with transgender youth. While the law may be debated as unenforceable, the immediate effect is that of doubt, secrecy, and concern by anyone who has knowledge of a trans child who is accessing care that is within the standards of care and best practices in their field. Educators and medical professionals are already struggling to do their jobs effectively under the impacts of COVID—the added stress of this EO is inhumane and uncalled for. It is also completely unsupported by the knowledge base in medicine, psychology, sociology, education, and related disciplines.
With this EO, the governor is stating that he knows better than the medical professionals who have spent their careers treating, researching, and supporting the health of the transgender community. As such, I hope that by sharing a sample of the research evidence about the importance of access to affirming care I can help the good people of Texas stand up and speak out against this action.
Four ways you can take action and stand in solidarity with trans youth, their families, and supportive professionals:
- Donate to a Texas trans rights organization such as https://www.transtexas.org.
- Publicly state your support for trans youth and families on social media.
- Send a postcard or call the Governor’s office to condemn this EO.
- Ask for your school to make visible their commitment to LGBQ and specifically trans and GNC students.
GLSEN. (2021). Improving School Climate for Transgender and Nonbinary Youth: Research Brief. New York: GLSEN.org.
Dickey, L. M., & Budge, S. L. (2020). Suicide and the transgender experience: A public health crisis. Am Psychol, 75(3), 380. https://doi.org/10.1037/amp0000619
Pyne, J. (2014). Health and well-being among gender-independent children and their families: A review of the literature. In E. J. Meyer & A. Pullen Sansfacon (Eds.), Supporting transgender and gender-creative youth: Schools, families, and communities in action (pp. 26-40). Peter Lang.
Slesaransky-Poe, G., Ruzzi, L., DiMedio, C., & Stanley, J. (2013). Is This the Right Elementary School for My Gender Nonconforming Child? Journal of LGBT Youth, 10(1-2), 29-44. https://doi.org/10.1080/19361653.2012.718521
Airton, L. (2018). Gender: Your Guide: A Gender-Friendly Primer on What to Know, What to Say, and What to Do in the New Gender Culture. Adams Media.
Gill-Peterson, J. (2018). Histories of the Transgender Child. University of Minnesota Press.
Mangin, M. (2020) Transgender Students in Elementary School. Harvard Ed Press.
Meyer, E. J., & Pullen Sansfacon, A. (Eds.). (2018). Supporting transgender and gender-creative youth: Schools, families, and communities in action (revised ed.). Peter Lang.
Pendleton Jimenez, K. (2016). Tomboys and Other Gender Heroes: Confessions from the Classroom. Peter Lang.
Travers, A. (2019). The Trans Generation: How Trans Kids (and their Parents) are Creating a Gender Revolution. New York University Press.