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Parents of trans children sue Texas to stop child-abuse investigations

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (Tannen Maury/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

In a new lawsuit, a Texas mother said her 16-year-old son attempted suicide in February after Gov. Greg Abbott (R) directed state agencies to investigate the use of gender-affirming care as child abuse.

Another family said they were forced to install security cameras outside their home after being heckled incessantly when the new directive was announced.

The families are among at least nine being probed by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services for providing their transgender children with certain medical treatments. In a lawsuit filed Wednesday, three of the families describe what they say is a constant fear of being separated from their children for providing them with medically advised gender-affirming treatments.

The suit, filed in a Texas district court by advocacy groups Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union, not only seeks to block the investigations into the three families named in it, but also to protect anyone affiliated with the LGBTQ advocacy group Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) — which has about 600 members in Texas — from similar probes.

The lawsuit is at least the second filed in the wake of Abbott’s order, which was based on a nonbinding opinion from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who determined that providing medical treatments such as puberty blockers and hormone therapy could “legally constitute child abuse” under state law. President Biden decried the move as “government overreach at its worst.”

The offices of the state’s attorney general and the governor did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Washington Post early Thursday.

In March, Lambda Legal and the ACLU filed a similar suit on behalf of a family whose 16-year-old transgender daughter, identified as Mary Doe, received gender-affirming care. A judge ruled that the state couldn’t proceed with the types of child-abuse investigations directed by Abbott’s order. But the Texas Supreme Court later said that ruling could only apply to Doe’s family.

Texas judge suspends Gov. Greg Abbott’s order to treat gender-affirming care as child abuse

Karen Loewy, Lambda Legal senior counsel, told The Post the new lawsuit was necessary to protect other families facing investigations.

Like the state’s strict abortion ban, the directive empowers private citizens to enforce it, Loewy said. That means ordinary Texans who suspect violations can report their neighbors, acquaintances and others. Professionals in certain lines of work who are required to report suspected child abuse, such as teachers and doctors, must also alert authorities about suspected gender-affirming treatments for minors.

“It’s just an invitation to those who would discriminate against trans people to make these kinds of reports,” Loewy said. “It’s really, really distressing.”

The families named in the lawsuit said they have felt the weight of being under the watch of neighbors, doctors and even strangers.

When the 16-year-old boy attempted suicide by “ingesting a bottle of aspirin,” his mother, identified in the lawsuit under the pseudonym Mirabel Voe, said he was rushed to a hospital. Doctors were able to save his life and referred him to an outpatient psychiatric facility. There, when the staff learned he was undergoing hormone therapy, they reported Voe to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. Investigators soon arrived at the family’s home.

“Being called an ‘alleged perpetrator’ in my own living room shocked me, and I immediately felt harm and stigma for being falsely accused of harming my own child simply by providing him with medically necessary health care,” Voe wrote in a declaration submitted with the lawsuit.

FAQ: What you need to know about transgender children

In other declarations, transgender children described the fear of being bullied, harassed and outed in school as a result of the directive. Others recounted what they deemed “a total invasion of privacy” and said their homes no longer felt safe. All said they worried about causing their families to be punished or torn apart.

“It really is just affecting these kids and their parents in the most traumatic of ways,” Loewy said.

For the families, the experience of being under investigation has been nothing short of devastating, the lawsuit states.

“Our family is just as much a part of Texas as any other family, and [my son] has the right to be provided with the same affirmation, love and ability to thrive as any other youth in our state,” Adam Briggle, a father and plaintiff in the case, wrote in a declaration.

Julian Mark contributed to this report.

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