TEXAS VIEW: State leaders join bullying of trans kids

THE POINT: It is wrong to twist sports into something exclusive and ostracizing.

When considering who should be off-limits from harm done by lawmakers, children should rise to the top of the list, yet Gov. Greg Abbott and the GOP’s policies are persistently hurtful, especially to children who are transgender.

Abbott and many Republican lawmakers are doing all they can to move forward with anti-transgender policies. In an interview Monday, Abbott told Mark Davis, a conservative radio talk-show host, that since anti-transgender legislation can’t pass the House, he’s found another way to stop transgender children from receiving gender-affirming health care, which he will share soon.

Targeting transgender people has become a Texas tradition.

On July 14 along party lines, the Senate passed Senate Bill 2, which would require students in public schools and public institutions of higher education to compete in interscholastic athletic competitions based on biological sex. Also passed was Senate Bill 32, identical to SB 29 passed during regular session, which requires public school students to compete in interscholastic athletic competitions based on biological sex.

The legislation is opposed by not only Democrats and civil rights advocates but the NCAA and major corporations, which threatened to take their business elsewhere if lawmakers moved forward with this pursuit.

Children who are transgender are already among the most vulnerable, facing bullying and harassment from their peers. If these students need gender-affirming care, they should be able to get it. If they want to play sports according to their gender identity, they should be able to play. Transgender children have rights and deserve support.

Equality Texas, the largest statewide organization of LGBTQ+ Texans, denounced the Legislature’s “unprecedented attack,” which includes more than 30 anti-LGBTQ+ bills during the regular session and an additional 16 anti-trans bills in the special session.

This was done, it said, “despite unequivocal evidence of documented harm to our children caused by political leaders debating whether trans kids should be treated like every other child in this state,” said Ricardo Martinez, chief executive officer of Equality Texas.

Social workers, educators, health care workers, civil rights advocates and children who are transgender have advocated against these anti-trans bills.

Clara Carnes of Houston spoke in opposition of both bills. “Here’s what it is like to be transgender. Every day you wake up and you see an impostor in the mirror. You are trapped and you cannot get out. Children should not be the victims of this widespread transgender paranoia. We are not dangerous. … I just want the ability to exist and be treated like everyone else.”

We don’t have to guess or imagine what these measures would do to this vulnerable population because it’s already happening. In a July 12 hearing, parents told senators that anti-trans bills have already had a negative impact on their children — Texas youth who have lost significant weight due to anxiety and worry about these bills and who are self-harming. Calls from Texas to Transgender Lifeline, a crisis hotline, increased 72 percent in May, during the peak of the debate in the regular session on similar bills.

Alison Mohr Boleware, government relations director of the National Association of Social Workers Texas Chapter, testified against the bill July 12, saying students who are transgender are worried, scared and don’t want to be excluded from sports. “The rhetoric around this bill is really hard to hear,” she said.

Thankfully, there wasn’t a vote in the House because of a lack of quorum due to Democrats having left the state to protest anti-voting legislation. But there will be a vote, eventually.

There is something downright mean about twisting sports — which at its best is inclusive and builds confidence — into something exclusive and potentially ostracizing. But perhaps that doesn’t play well in a GOP primary.

San Antonio Express-News