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NCYL Joins Advocates to Stand Against Hateful and Harmful Laws Targeting Trans Youth and Their Families

Two young people side by side, smiling with faces pressed against each other

There is no better place for a child to grow and thrive than surrounded by a supportive family. This is particularly true for young people who are transgender, nonbinary or experiencing distress related to their gender — people who face widespread public stigma, are targeted by misguided legislation, and are at heightened risk for a host of harms and devastating outcomes.

Unfortunately, these youth — and their families — are under attack in the state of Texas, where Gov. Greg Abbott is using the state's Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) as a cudgel to instill fear, break up families, and prevent young people from accessing medically necessary care.

The National Center for Youth Law stands with transgender youth and their families. We’re joining several advocacy organizations and medical professionals in demanding the Texas Third District Court of Appeals put a stop to these insidious and malicious efforts. 

In an amicus — or friend of the court — filing, the National Center for Youth Law joined with Disability Rights Texas, and several others, in asking the Court of Appeals to support a legal challenge (Doe v. Abbott) to Gov. Abbott's statewide directive to have DFPS investigate any family that seeks gender-affirming medical care for a child. This troubling policy, though purportedly meant to protect youth, has had the opposite effect.

"It is unconscionable that Gov. Abbott and Texas leaders are even trying to push this policy as being beneficial to anyone's health," said Brenda Star Adams, directing attorney with the National Center for Youth Law. "The fact is these hate-driven efforts have deadly consequences and will only further divide and traumatize youth, families and communities. The Court of Appeals has a chance to stand up for young people and their families and let them know they matter in the state of Texas."

Youth, families under attack

Gender-affirming healthcare — the very care the Texas policy treats as abuse — has been shown to reduce depression and rates of suicide in transgender youth, both in the long and short terms. Discouraging youth from seeking this care, and punishing them by investigating and potentially removing them from their families if they do, will only serve to increase those rates of depression, mental illness and suicide ideation. This type of intervention by the state is causing, and will continue to cause, harm.

Further, families face unjust and undue harm simply by having an investigation launched against them — even if the investigation ends with no formal charge of abuse, as is the case in about 75% of Texas DFPS inquiries. Just the threat of an investigation can lead families to forgo seeking critical services they need and would otherwise utilize. 

Gov. Abbott's policy — by instilling fear that any contact with the state, even with social service agencies — profoundly interferes with the crucial relationship between families and their medical providers and can discourage a family from seeking help in the future.
Investigations are also often a financial burden for families. This is particularly troublesome, as being on government assistance or having a lower income are better indicators of whether a DFPS investigation is launched than whether actual abuse has occurred, disproportionately impacting families with limited resources. 

Instead of supporting youth and families and entrusting them to make their own decisions regarding medical care, the Texas policy seeks to further stigmatize transgender children, take them out of supportive family environments and put them through the trauma of investigations, family separation, and foster care. Experts know and agree that this is directly contrary to child protection and welfare, and will disproportionally impact transgender Black, Indigenous, multiracial, and Latine youth.

Children and families should feel comfortable and empowered when seeking services to improve their health and wellbeing. We must stop laws and policies that serve only to fuel stigmas and exacerbate harms. We must ensure families aren't targeted, as they are now, based on their race, income level, LGBTQI+ status or gender identity.

Read our full amicus filing here. And please join us in demanding that the Texas Third District Court of Appeals defend and establish meaningful values that truly prioritize familial bonds, health and wellbeing. Hate and bigotry have no place in public policy.