These parents didn’t embrace gender-affirming care. Texas investigated them.
An op-ed in the Dallas Morning News
This piece appeared earlier in the Dallas Morning News.
Morgan had always been exceedingly bright, curious and outgoing. She was an extraordinarily hard worker and excelled at art. But in third grade, when her period arrived so early, she became anxious and withdrawn from her schoolmates. She started cutting her forearms. Her parents, who live in Spring, Texas, sent her to a small, private school and to a therapist, and she improved. She made friends. She stopped cutting. She was still navigating ADHD and social anxiety, and they suspected she was on the autism spectrum, but she was stable.
In sixth grade, she got into Discord, Reddit and TikTok. Her mental health seemed to be deteriorating again. Her friends started coming out as pansexual and trans. At age 13, Morgan announced that she, too, had gender dysphoria. She needed a new name and pronouns. Her parents took her to a gender specialist.
“The doctor was agreeing with everything she said and telling her we could give her puberty blockers,” said Morgan’s mother. “There was never any talk about medical history, mental history, family history.”
Wary of their daughter’s emotional fragility, and appalled both at the lack of curiosity about anything else that could be at play, and the insistence that the parents affirm with no questions asked, the family never returned. The parents felt she needed real help for the source of her struggles, not a fad cure for depression and anxiety discovered on social media.
Less than a month later, after they’d informed the school and the doctor that they wouldn’t be allowing their daughter to socially or medically transition, a social worker from the Department of Family and Protective Services showed up at their door to tell them they were being investigated for abuse and neglect.
Texas policy around trans kids has caused quite a kerfuffle in the past few months, whipping people into a frenzy whatever side of the debate they’re on. Attorney General Ken Paxton and Gov. Greg Abbott have declared medical interventions for gender dysphoria to be child abuse and authorized child protection agencies to investigate parents for engaging it, despite the fact that multiple medical organizations endorse puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and sometimes surgeries like double mastectomies for children under 18. Many families believe what advocacy organizations like the ACLU state: that these interventions are literally “life-saving.”
News organizations like The New York Times have reported on families with affirmed trans kids being subject to DFPS investigations, and the terror they feel not just at the prospect of not having access to puberty blockers or hormones, but of being forcibly separated from children during a difficult time. Such actions are truly cruel, and counterproductive to a child’s mental health.
But families in multiple states, including Texas, have also been investigated when they refuse to socially or medically transition their children. The heat is turned all the way up on both sides, and families are getting burned. But there’s no scientific reason for this madness. Despite what groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics or the Trevor Project — or even Assistant Secretary for Health Rachel Levine — say, there is no solid evidence that these interventions should be categorized as life-saving.
To understand why requires a deeper look at the science. There are indeed studies that show
short-term improvement in mental health after kids receive puberty blockers and/or cross-sex hormones. One study, a retroactive survey of adults, asserted that those who got puberty blockers when younger had fewer suicidal thoughts and attempts. But a published critique noted that puberty blockers weren’t even available in the U.S. when some respondents said they’d taken them, and some were over 18 (they are generally prescribed under the age of 16), which means respondents didn’t understand or answer truthfully.
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