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New law bans gender-affirming care for Texas minors

Mazzy Warren
PROTESTING LEGISLATION: Texas families attend a protest at the Texas capital in support of transgender Texans, hoping to delay the passing of SB14. The bill went into effect on September 1, despite the immense push-back from the public.

Senior Lee Terrell’s stomach plunges. His smile drops from his face as he feels the fear begin to claw at his throat. What was just a normal conversation with his friends took a shocking turn, as they warned him about a potentially life-threatening law that will grip the state of Texas this summer.

Senate Bill 14 (SB14) bans all practices of gender-affirming medical care in Texas. This bill, which went into effect September 1, makes it more challenging for transgender minors in Texas to receive the care they need to comfortably express themselves.

“I was both shocked and not shocked at all, to hear that the bill was passed, because this is definitely a law that Texas legislatures would push for,” Terrell said. “I think Texas created this law out of ignorance, and not knowing the true impact the law has on the group that it targets.”

The bill prohibits physicians from prescribing puberty blockers, such as testosterone and estrogen shot, to patients under the age of 18, even if they have parental consent. The bill also bans gender reassignment procedures, or surgeries that physically alter a transgender individual’s body to match their identity.

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“I don’t know if I’ll be able to receive any hormones or medical care, even after I turn 18,” senior Clyde Warren said. “With the way that things are going, especially after this bill, it’s unclear if we’ll even have access to any care at all, because there have been plenty of states, like Florida, that are trying to get rid of gender-affirming care for everyone.”

The bill was first introduced to the Texas Secretary of State Patsy Spaw, on March 8, and passed the senate on April 4. The Texas House of Representatives then read and amended the bill; it was passed with a final vote of 19-12. Governor Greg Abbott signed the bill this June.

I hope that students have a safe space to be themselves, and if they don’t, just know that there are options available for them.

— Matt Flickinger, English Teacher

“It’s a headline-grabbing bill that immediately divides the public, since it’s one of those culture war bills that’s going to grab people’s attention, and everyone will eventually lean to one side,” AP government teacher Dalton Pool said. “Republicans have pushed the bill knowing that the majority of their supporters would agree with them, so it’s a way for them to score easy political points.”

Texas citizens are pushing for progression each election, but fall short every legislative session. Republican incumbents have been reelected at every opportunity, resulting in the Republican Party’s three-decade hold on the state.

“The Texas legislators don’t want to talk to transgender people, or the people who are actually affected by this new policy,” Warren said. “They just talk in their little circles with their like-minded colleagues. They never hear a differing opinion, because they talk in echo chambers, so they think everyone in Texas thinks similar to them, but this isn’t the case.”

SB14 saw immense backlash throughout the law’s development, including protests and interrupted public House hearings, which ended with the arrests of those opposing SB14. Despite the vocal retaliation, politicians have still voted to enact the bill along party lines.

“Thinking about potential ways for people to fight the bill now that it’s been passed, people can join interest groups,” Pool said. “There’s a lot of interest groups around this bill specifically, but also around the LGBT community in general. Advocating for transgender people, and donating time and money to politicians that would fight the bill, is also an option for people who disagree with the bill. Overall though, it comes down to future elections. So if you disagree with the bill, then you need to vote for future candidates that will do something about the policy.”

Many of the procedures denied by this bill are considered lifesaving, because they allow transgender individuals to express themselves, and without that form of accurate self-expression, their self-esteem is negatively impacted. The disproportionately high suicide rates for transgender youth is often attributed to their negative self-esteem and body dysmorphia. Discontinuing the distribution of the treatment outlined in SB14 could be interpreted as a violation of the trans community’s personal freedoms.

“I can understand if someone, personally, wouldn’t want their child to transition when they’re super young, but I don’t think personal decisions like healthcare should be brought into a courthouse,” Warren said. “That decision should be made between the parent, the child, and their doctor. It’s disgusting that the government is trying to take over life-saving health care like this.”

According to studies collected by the National Library of Medicine, transgender individuals are more prone to suicidal thoughts and mental illnesses in comparison to their cisgender peers. A large reason for that statistic is that they often don’t have access to the appropriate medical care, leading transgender individuals to find alternative options.

Being trans just means being more open-minded and allowing yourself to experiment with gender expression. Who is it hurting?

— Lee Terrell, 12

“I’ve had conversations with transgender students that are very concerned about the bill, so I know that a number of students are frightened,” English teacher Matt Flickinger said. “I read stories in the news about students leaving the state to seek certain medical care, and I hope that doesn’t happen to any of my students. Bills like this are pushing fear of our differences, and that is never going to bring us together as a society. I don’t think the people pushing this agenda care about that, but I think it should be an overarching goal of ours to come together to express ourselves, enjoy, and celebrate our differences.”

There are resources available for transgender students here at Bowie, who might be struggling with the implications of this bill. Teachers and counselors are available at school, and websites such as the Trevor Project and the Crisis Text Line are committed to providing confidential counseling for the LGBT community virtually, 24/7.

“I hope that all students here have a safe space to be themselves, and if they don’t have that safe space, just know that there are options available for them,” Flickinger said. “We have a great Sexuality and Gender Acceptance (SAGA) club, run by Mr. Morgan, as well as certain teachers, including myself, that pride themselves on being a safe space for students, who just need to exist and feel validated in our community here at Bowie.”

According to data collected by the Williams Institute, Texas is home to nearly 30 thousand transgender people between the ages 13-17, and, according to the Trevor Project, nearly 150 thousand LGBT youth have experienced suicidal thoughts.

“It’s really hard and scary to be transgender,” Terrell said. “It’s a lot harder and scarier than it seems, and now without having access to that medical care, it cuts off a lot of options for us. Being transgender means you’re more open-minded and are more open to being experimental with how you express your gender. It’s very disappointing to think that there’s people out there who are against us because, in reality, what are we hurting besides a politician’s own fear of progression?”

This story was originally published on The Dispatch on October 20, 2023.