Judge Halts Texas “Child Abuse” Investigations Into Trans Youths and Families

A Texas judge has ordered the state to halt investigations into families providing gender-affirming care to their children if they belong to PFLAG, an LGBTQ-aligned organization.

The order from Travis County District Judge Amy Clark Meachum was issued on Friday and only applies to Texas-based members of PFLAG who are at risk of being investigated by officials. The judge’s specificity over who is protected from intrusive and unnecessary investigations was due to limitations the state Supreme Court had placed on a previous order issued by Meachum.

Inquiries into these families were prompted by an executive order earlier this year from Gov. Greg Abbott (R-Texas), who instructed the state Department of Family and Protective Services to conduct “a prompt and thorough investigation of any reported instances” of gender-affirming care, which his order wrongly characterized as “abusive procedures.”

Meachum had actually placed an injunction on Abbott’s order shortly after it was issued. But the state Supreme Court overruled Meachum’s original action, and stated that Texas officials could still pursue these investigations. Lower courts could also impose blocks of Abbott’s executive action, but only for specific plaintiffs, not broadly as Meachum had done.

In her order on Friday, Meachum ruled that members of PFLAG, which had sued on behalf of plaintiffs who were being investigated by the state under Abbott’s decree, should be shielded from being harassed by the state. Meachum issued her order on the basis that there was “a substantial likelihood” that the litigants would be successful in suing to stop the inquiry.

Without the injunction, Meachum added in her order, families being investigated by the state would “suffer probable, imminent, and irreparable injury in the interim.”

Contrary to the claims made in Abbott’s order, gender-affirming care is far from being “abusive” — in fact, it has the potential to be lifesaving.

Such care includes a wide range of treatments, from verbal therapy to medicine or even surgery in some cases. For children, however, treatment options rarely, if ever, include surgery; instead, most medical treatment for trans youth involves the use of reversible puberty blockers.

Medical experts largely agree that gender-affirming care for trans youth is more than just safe — it’s also deeply beneficial. In a University of Washington study published in February on the outcome of using puberty blockers and gender-affirming hormone treatments for individuals aged 13-20, such treatments were associated with 60 percent lower odds of moderate or severe depression and 73 percent lower odds of suicidality a year after the treatments began.

Columbia University’s Department of Psychiatry has also confirmed that gender-affirming care is beneficial for trans youth. “Research demonstrates that gender-affirming care…greatly improves the mental health and overall well-being of gender diverse, transgender, and nonbinary children and adolescents,” the department said in a statement in March.

State laws and policies like Texas’s “run counter to scientific evidence [and] also threaten the mental health of transgender and nonbinary youth,” the department went on.