Though Republicans have consistently and steadily spread anti-trans rhetoric across the nation, certain bills—or in this case, a directive—get much more national outcry than others. Even here at Daily Kos, we’ve seen that coverage of discriminatory anti-trans measures is often met with relative crickets. Some news gets broader circulation, like Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, and, more recently, an opinion from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. This opinion—which is not a law—is an analysis of Paxton’s based on existing law in which he argues that gender-affirming health care for trans youth is actually child abuse.
Now, he is completely incorrect factually. We know that. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has already backed anti-trans legislation and, unsurprisingly, has directed state agencies to follow Paxton’s interpretation of the law, which would include people like physicians, teachers, school nurses, and social workers reporting parents for child abuse. Is this very bad? Yes. Is this grounds for people to leave Texas? That’s for individuals to decide. Is it grounds for the only support and solution to be to tell people to move? Absolutely not.
Whenever human rights tragedies happen (both in the U.S. and abroad, frankly), many well-intentioned folks talk about the necessity of moving. This comes up every time we talk about a particularly restrictive anti-choice abortion law, for example, or even when it comes to voter suppression. It’s come up in terms of trans health care, bathroom bills, and even sports. There were many points it came up in terms of same-sex marriage before it was the law of the land.
But that perspective is not sustainable. It’s not even accessible for most people.
On a purely logistical level, moving is expensive. Not everyone has the funds available to rent a new home, plus pay the costs associated with establishing basic utilities, acquiring necessary appliances or other material goods, moving furniture as well as moving yourself, other family, and pets. If you don’t work remotely, too, you might be lucky to be able to transfer your job to another location (say, if you work for a major company or chain store) but for many folks, that’s simply unrealistic. So then moving means getting another job. Or jobs, if more than one person in your family works.
Your cost of living might dramatically change, too. Your rent might be more. Your taxes might be higher. Your insurance might not get you as far as it did before. You might have to settle for a location with less public transportation, higher rent, or more fees tacked onto living standard living expenses.
Then we go into the emotional weight. If you’re a parent who wants to move to help protect your trans youth, you might have more than one dependent to consider. That could mean moving schools, changing doctors, pulling kids from sports or other extracurriculars, or separating from childcare support systems. You might be leaving adult relatives who can’t make the move in solidarity. You might be leaving behind elders who simply can’t move—and now need to find other support systems too.
And for the trans minor? The grief is so heavy. Trans youth should not have to feel the responsibility of their entire family moving because adults with power—adults who can vote, adults who can organize—can think of no better solution than uprooting their lives to escape. That’s not fair. Trans youth already live with disproportionately high rates of depression and anxiety. They should not be expected to give up the life they know—and perhaps love—because people in power want to be hateful. It’s not fair.
And if a trans youth doesn’t have supportive parents? Imagine the compounded despair when they log onto Twitter or watch the news and see adults who are political allies—progressives, even moderates—saying, “Well, let’s fundraise to get these teens to New England, then.” There’s not enough individual fundraising for that. GoFundMe campaigns cannot save a generation.
The solution? We take responsibility and fight on behalf of all Texans, including the trans people who have always been there.
Texas is not a monolith. There is rich culture and history there, including for trans people and spaces. There is joy, found family, and hope. Republican governors and hateful constituents do not cancel out a thriving LGBTQ+ community, nor all of its activism efforts.
How to take action? Of course: Vote. But that’s both stating the obvious and not enough, given that voter suppression is rampant and not everyone can vote. In terms of making a real difference, my first suggestion is to make sure you are not spreading misinformation in an effort to be helpful—the opinion, for example, is not resulting in trans people being reported for simply existing.
It could result in reports about gender-affirming care, like hormonal therapy or puberty blockers, being reported to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. That’s extremely bad, yes. But it is not the same as saying “every trans youth is going to be pulled from their parents at dawn unless you cross state lines overnight.” Again, the reality here is extremely bad. We don’t need to fall into hyperbole and spread panic and make it even scarier for youth who already have little power. Let’s stick to facts so we can fight the situation realistically.
There is also the reality that even if these reports come in, these agencies are already bloated by responsibilities and underfunded. It’s unclear what actions these reports could actually cause and how investigations would go. It’s a very frightening thought experiment, yes. But again, this is a directive based on an analysis of opinion—it is not a law. No governor has the ability to simply say, “Hey, this is the law of my land now, deal with it.” (Thankfully) it doesn’t work that way.
In the short term, I implore people to check out grassroots organizations in Texas that provide support to trans youth and families. Certainly, if people want to move, I get it. There is no shame in making that choice. But it is not the only response, and if people can’t (or choose not to), that does not mean we collectively close our eyes and say, Well, it’s Texas!
Instead, we need to show up. That means reaching out to elected officials, supporting local organizations with our dollars (when possible), sharing factual information about the situation, tamping down (even well-intended) misinformation, and sharing resources for mental health support.
It also means remembering that anti-trans measures are alive and well all over the country, so even for folks who can move, there is no promise comparable hate won’t crop up elsewhere. Moving from place to place is not a sustainable, fair endgame. Nowhere is safe if everywhere isn’t.
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