The 2021 Texas legislature began with over 40 bills meant to constrain the lives of transgender people in our state. In the closing week, several remain on the docket and may be passed and signed into law. Passage will mean tragedy for families and youth across Texas.
Week after week this spring, trans youth and their parents and other members of the trans community have had their dignity attacked as state lawmakers and others have debated their humanity and rights publicly as if they are not real people and faithful families with their own stories. Crowds have filled committee rooms at the State Capitol.
Again and again, bill sponsors and advocates have declared that their punitive bills represent God’s will and that they know better than children’s parents and doctors and our trans neighbors what is best for them. Allies and members of the trans community have spoken to educate the gathered bodies about the damage the laws will wreak in lives lost to despair, suicide, and violence. They have affirmed the value and rights of all people. The mother of a trans girl shared how her daughter was considering suicide before reliable and reversible gender-affirming medical care helped her emerge from debilitating depression. Courageous teenagers, trans girls and boys, patiently and passionately shared with legislative committees their personal journeys and dreams.
These are parents who have walked day by day, year by year with their children. Mothers who have sought to understand their children and love them in the midst of the small victories, temper tantrums, discoveries, and moments of blossoming present in the lives of every child. Parents who have wrestled through their own fears and grief and have discovered they love and celebrate the person their child truly is.
These are young people who have claimed themselves and have often faced bias as a result.
These are families who deserve the rights all families in Texas expect, that they will enjoy the space and privacy to work through the challenges of life in ways that build love and help children grow into thriving adults.
In their stories I heard the core of Jesus’ message: All people are loved by God. Full stop. All are made in God’s image and are worthy of the protections and opportunities afforded by our state and country. The Episcopal Church affirms this claim when it calls upon the baptized to “respect the dignity and freedom of every human being” and to “seek and serve Christ in all people, loving [their] neighbor as [themselves].” (BCP)
The worth of a person is not determined through public debate on the private details of a person’s life.
These bills will do nothing to make children or young people safe, and they will exacerbate an already tragic truth: that Texas stands near the top of the country in numbers of suicides of trans youth and in violent crimes against trans adults.
Mother’s Day is Sunday and Father’s Day follows in a month. All parents need space and trusted advisors to walk with their children toward adulthood. Parents must be able to access trusted medical advice and life-giving activities for their children without fear, so that they can help their children grow and thrive in a difficult world.
As a faith leader and a mother, I urge the legislature, in an affirmation of human dignity and with a spirit of compassion, to defeat these bills.