In this episode of the It’s Going Down podcast, we speak with Austin based journalist Kit O’Connell about the growing attacks on abortion access and the LGBTQ community across Texas. We discuss how anti-LGBTQ legislation, pushed by a wave of far-Right conspiracy theories that have repackaged trans and homophobia into a panic around “groomers,” is creating an atmosphere of fear and escalating calls for violence.
As NPR wrote:
Anti-trans rhetoric in Texas has grown louder in the past few weeks. Attorney General Ken Paxton issued an opinion that likened gender-affirming surgery — a procedure that gives transgender people a body that aligns with their gender identity — to child abuse.
Days later, Gov. Greg Abbott doubled down with a letter calling on professionals, including teachers and doctors, to report parents who give their children gender-affirming care. The letter added that there would be similar reporting requirements for the general public, and consequences for those who don’t report.
Rachel Stonecipher has been fired from her job teaching at a high school in Irving, TX after she objected to the district's decision to remove rainbow stickers from her classroom window. Ms. Stonecipher also ran the school's Gay-Straight Alliance. https://t.co/qFYrEwX67S
— Gillian Branstetter (@GBBranstetter) April 22, 2022
Despite a temporary halt to politically motivated child abuse investigations of families with trans kids, parents and advocates say they continue to live in fear as anti-trans moral panic sweeps through the Lone Star State’s GOP base voters and their leaders.
Texas continues to look for other ways to put pressure on trans kids, their parents, and their health care providers. In late March, Paxton’s office filed new investigative demands in a civil case against two pharmaceutical companies, Endo Pharmaceuticals and AbbVie Inc., which provide puberty-blocker drugs. Although approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of children who enter puberty early, they’re also prescribed (with the backing of experts like the American Medical Association) as a way to delay puberty in transgender kids who are too young to receive other forms of medical treatment such as hormones.
Recently, right-wing pundits and online trolls began promoting the notion that adults who support trans or queer kids are “groomers” or pedophiles – which is a modern spin on a very old form of homophobia. One mother of a nonbinary 12-year-old (who uses they/them pronouns) told us that widespread bullying in an Austin-area public school put her child in crisis, ultimately resulting in their hospitalization for emergency mental health care. (The Chronicle agreed to keep the family’s identity anonymous.)
In one particularly harmful incident, her child’s teacher claimed, in front of the classroom, that the reason her child is transgender is because they were groomed by their queer parents. Their mother told us, “Once the directive hit I was terrified that the teacher would report us.” Abbott’s anti-trans “abuse” directive has also made the entire process of getting health care for her child fraught with risk. “It’s really scary having to disclose [their] gender identity,” she wrote. “Because we never know who is safe and who is a bigot.” Like many families with trans kids, she’s considering leaving the state, though her financial situation prevents them from leaving immediately. “We thankfully have a lot of support from friends and family that would help [us] relocate if things got worse here.”
We also discuss increased attacks on abortion access and how people are organizing to push back on multiple fronts.
photo: Sara Rampazzo via Unsplash