Anti-trans measures in Texas are going from bad to worse. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott is no ally to LGBTQ+ people, but his decision to essentially make a nonbinding opinion from Attorney General Ken Paxton the word of law is decidedly cruel. As Daily Kos covered at the time, the Republican Texas attorney general wrote an opinion—which is essentially an analysis based on his interpretation of existing law—that categorizes gender-affirming health care for trans youth as child abuse. This goes against standard science and medicine from a number of major medical groups, mind you.
Abbott then directed state agencies to abide by this opinion and investigate families who seek gender-affirming care for trans youth, like hormone therapy and puberty blockers. One hospital in Texas has already paused its treatments out of concern for physicians facing legal ramifications. And one family in Texas says they’ve already been investigated by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). What makes this particularly stunning, truly, is that Paxton had dinner with this very family, in this very home, just six years ago, as reported by The Texas Tribune. And now they’re having to prove to the state that their home is safe for their two kids.
Paxton and his wife, Angela, joined the Briggle family for dinner in their home six years ago in the Dallas, Texas, area. Why? Because at the time, anti-trans measures were seeking to bar trans folks from using the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity. The Briggle family decided to invite Paxton over to dinner to meet their openly trans son—a unique and inspiring way of trying to change someone’s mind. At the time, they thought it worked.
Now thanks to Paxton’s opinion, the parents of two say they’re under investigation and could lose custody of their children.
As mom Amber Briggle told The 19th, she found out about the investigation on Feb. 28 when she returned a missed phone call to her business. Upon returning the call, she was told a Child Protective Services worker was on their way to their home per an investigation. Briggle said she had about half an hour before the worker was due to arrive at their home, and at that time, she contacted her husband and their family attorney. The attorney was able to schedule a meeting for another day.
(It’s worth pointing out here that the Briggle family absolutely has certain privileges others won’t—their whiteness, their relative wealth, and their ability to contact an attorney, for example, are all things low-income parents or parents of color may lack in these circumstances.)
Ultimately, the investigator arrived at their home a few days later on March 2. Briggle said their attorney told them they technically had the right to refuse to answer questions, though they did show the worker their backyard, including a trampoline and room for the kids to play, as well as a kitchen stocked with food and plenty of games, books, and children’s artwork around the house.
Briggle says the investigator told the parents they were doing something right. What’s enough? What’s “right” enough to be safe, and whose opinion is shaped by their own societal and structural norms and biases? That’s just part of what makes this process so deeply unfair and terrifying.
In terms of the kids, the Briggle parents wrote in a statement that they advised their children they didn’t have to answer questions. “We told them that the government is trying to spy on us even though we have done nothing wrong,” the statement reads in part, according to The 19th.
This isn’t the only family who says they’ve been contacted by the DFPS. At least a handful have spoken out, and as reported by NBC News, apparently the department opened an investigation into the family of one of its own investigators because they have a trans child.
In the big picture, it’s deeply worrisome that families who have become involved in activism or spoken out may be targeted now. Think about the brave trans youth who testified before committees in defense of their own basic rights and humanity. They were praised for their bravery, and now they might be taken from their families. That’s beyond sick.
Measures like these from the state level could easily lead to people staying quiet and closeted in order to stay (relatively) safe at home with their families. This could lead to people not wanting to “publicly” transition while at school or in sports, such as sticking with their name or pronouns assigned at birth, which could absolutely add to mental distress and feelings of gender dysphoria. It’s unfair, unsafe, and frankly, downright unethical.
It’s unclear how this situation will play out. Thanks to the Biden administration, we know people in high places of power in the federal government don’t agree with Abbott’s directive and that they don't support it. But arguing that something is unconstitutional doesn’t mean it goes away—just look at ongoing attacks on abortion access, for example. We need to keep up the fight, and we need to play the long game.
Next time Republicans stir hysteria about little kids playing sports, remember that what they’re really trying to do is get the public comfortable with the idea that trans people are somehow different, and therefore, discrimination is “okay.”