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Commentary: Greg Abbott’s transgender witch-hunt is an embarrassment to Texas

Opinion+writer+Ryan+Lindner+says+that+another%26%23160%3BAbbott+term+is+the+way+to+go
Photo by Photo courtesy of World Travel & Tourism Council

Opinion writer Ryan Lindner says that another Abbott term is the way to go

“I hereby direct your agency to conduct a prompt and thorough investigation of any reported instances of these abusive procedures in the state of Texas.”

On Tuesday, Feb. 22, Gov. Greg Abbott issued a statement to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services saying that those who do not report gender-affirming care for transgender youths will be subject to “criminal penalties.” 

Abbott is basing this letter off a recent legal opinion from the office of state Attorney General Ken Paxton, which argued labeling common gender affirming  medical procedures which may result in sterlization or delayed puberty as child abuse. Paxton’s opinion is not legally binding, being his own conclusions to questions posed by State Rep. Matt Krause and not the findings of a court case or legislative session, but you wouldn’t know it given Abbott’s orders. To try and push major changes in state policy based on a single unsubstantiated opinion flies in the face of our legal and democratic processes. Abbott is making up the rules as he goes along. 

District attorneys of some of Texas’ largest counties have openly defied Abbott’s decree. Attorneys state-wide have challenged the letter, calling it a “misrepresentation of Texas law.” No formal law has been made and it is questionable how, and if, this letter can be enforced. Abbott’s decision is unprecedented, which is not a first for the governor, ironically.

This is not unlike Abbott’s abortion ban, which awards bounties for reporting those who get abortions or anyone who aids and ‘abets’ them — medical professionals in particular. Abbott seeks to govern through mob rule and fear, passing whatever decrees he wants regardless of legality and leaving the people of Texas to pick, choose and snitch in order to enforce them. Abbott’s abortion ban has caused Texans to flee, overwhelming the clinics in neighboring states and beyond

Abbott’s vision of Texas is not one governed by rule of law, but where the health of Texas’ women and children are used as political pawns as he turns Texan against Texan.

Not so coincidentally, Abbott released the letter the day before former ERCOT chief Bill Magness was to testify in court regarding blackouts during last year’s winter storm. And boy, did he testify. Magness stated, under oath, that Abbott had directed him to charge homeowners the maximum price for electricity during the snowpocalypse of February 2021, according to the Houston Chronicle.

It seems pretty obvious what’s going on. On the eve of the Republican gubernatorial primary, Abbott saw this news as potentially damaging in the eyes of his constituents. To cover up this possible reveal, he made an unprecedented, baseless, headline-worthy decree that is far less offensive to his conservative base, if not mobilizing.

Conservatives have used issues of transgender rights as a way to fearmonger and distract from the past failings of conservative leadership. Abbott’s letter is the latest action concerning trans youths in the past few years, after a failed bathroom bill and trans athletes being banned from competing in schools.

Abbott has again shown his willingness to throw children and their parents under the bus, using them as cannon fodder and target practice to push through his political agenda.

Abbott repeatedly conflated gender confimation with “genital mutilation.” Experts do not agree, and genital reconstructive surgery in minors is extremely rare anyway. The purpose of gender-affirming treatments is to put one in the best possible position to make informed choices about their healthcare when they reach legal age. 

A study by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that hormone blockers and other gender-affirming care lowered the rate of depression by 60% and lowered suicidality by 73% in youths between 13 and 21. Gender-affirming care undoubtedly saves lives — study after study corroborates this fact.

The American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association have all issued statements supporting gender-affirming care and denouncing any attempts by states to block or limit trans healthcare in youths. 

Gender-affirming care is the opposite of abuse. 

On trans issues, many people like to pay lip service to biology and science. But, it’s important to consider that maybe the last time they learned about this subject was their freshman biology class in the 1970s. We already know how they feel about reading, so this is to be expected. 

Contrary to their understanding, countless cultures around the world and throughout history validate the existence of people who we would today call trans. Even biological sex is more complicated and expansive than the layman may know. 

But, Abbott’s is not the majority opinion. Texans are only becoming more supportive of trans people over time. Three-quarters of Texans oppose refusing services to LGBTQ+ people. 

Texas Competes, a partnership of over 1,400 businesses, has also spoken out against the letter. As well as a senior Vice President at Dell, Eric Day. Abbott is making Texas, a state that once prided itself on its friendliness to business, less and less appealing to them by the day. 

To be frank, rarely has policy been so holistically moronic and careless toward the people and processes the law is meant to protect. Abbott has shown time and time again that the bar can always be lowered.

Trans people already face discrimination and challenges in healthcare and it is extremely stressful, to say the least, for trans people to have their existences constantly debated and criminalized. To add more hostility and overt persecution to the mix is blatantly inviting harm onto young people and their families. 

To top it all off, Abbott’s administration only sticks by its values when it’s convenient for them. 

Abbott was very much against the government punishing individuals for their medical decisions in response to President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate. 

“Texans and Americans alike have learned and mastered the safe practices to protect themselves and their loved ones from COVID[-19], and do not need the government to tell them how to do so,” an Abbott administration spokesperson said

Trans youths and their families know better than anyone, especially Greg Abbott, how to manage their healthcare. 

Zachary Freeman is an anthropology senior and opinion columnist for The Battalion.

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