Just a week into the Texas legislature’s special session, Republicans have introduced at least 12 bills aimed at harming transgender people, especially trans children. Anti-trans laws are a priority for Texas Republicans and was one of the agenda items motivating Governor Greg Abbott to call the session.
Seven of the bills — five in the state House and two in the Senate — are aimed at banning trans youth, including college students, from participating in sports, LGBTQ Nation reports. One of them, HB 179, is aimed specifically at banning trans girls from sports teams. The two Senate bills passed out of committee on Monday night.
Barring trans youth from participating in school sports is a direct assault on trans peoples’ mental health. Transgender youth are especially vulnerable to mental health risks like suicide.
There is a mountain of evidence, from medical sources and from testimonies from trans youths and their families, showing that trans childrens’ sports participation can be greatly beneficial to their mental and physical health. Banning trans children from sports, meanwhile, can have devastating effects.
Five other anti-trans bills filed by Texas Republicans in the past week are related to restricting health care for trans people and again are a direct attack on the mental and physical health of trans children. One of them “effectively bans the ability for one to change the sex listed on their birth certificate,” writes LGBTQ Nation, and forces health care workers to list the gender a person was assigned at birth on official documents.
Several of them ban health care for trans youth, barring them from receiving gender-affirming care like puberty blockers and hormones. Gender-affirming treatments are also crucial for trans childrens’ mental health and often have long-lasting positive results on trans people’s mental health as they grow into adults. Studies have shown that receiving puberty blockers as a child, for instance, can reduce suicidal thoughts for trans adults.
Abhorrently, HB 181, filed by GOP state Rep. Steve Toth, categorizes allowing trans youth to access health care as child abuse. One of the bills, SB 66, bars mental health care professionals from providing care like talk therapy or counseling that would affirm a trans child’s gender identity.
The end result of the combined attacks on trans children and adults, trans advocates have warned, is creating increasingly hostile and violent conditions for trans people in Texas and in other states like Arkansas that have passed similar bills.
Despite hours of passionate testimony from trans advocates in the state against the two sports-ban bills that advanced from the Senate committee this week, however, the bills could very well pass the Republican-controlled legislature and be signed into law by GOP Gov. Greg Abbott.
“Sports saved my life, and I beg of you to allow this to continue for other kids like myself.”
Elected officials should work to protect kids, not hurt them. Tell Texas lawmakers to vote no on SB 29 and its harmful ban on trans kids in sports. #TxLege https://t.co/Rpnf7U8Z99 pic.twitter.com/je4TMEcoS0
— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) April 10, 2021
The Texas legislature is also fast-tracking other Republican priorities like further reducing access to abortions, banning the teaching of the history of Black Americans and racism in the U.S., and passing what advocates have called one of the worst voter suppression bills in the country. Republicans had originally tried passing these items in the spring but were blocked by Democrats at the last minute.
Republicans have been sweeping the country with anti-trans bills, introducing over 100 bills targeted at harming trans people in just the last six months. This wave of bills is already having an effect on trans people’s mental health as their rights are being debated and politicized.
Trans peoples’ mental health “is absolutely getting worse as these bills are being passed because we are telling trans youth that they do not belong in our society, that they do not have a place,” Sam Brinton, vice president of advocacy and government affairs at The Trevor Project, told CBS. “This could come at the literal cost of lives,” Brinton said, noting that The Trevor Project has been receiving an unusually high number of calls from trans youth experiencing mental health crises in recent months.