This story was originally published by The 19th
The national polling data, shared exclusively with The 19th, suggests that GOP voters are not nearly as supportive of anti-trans bills being pushed by Republican state lawmakers across the country as some Republican politicians may want to believe. The data also carries significance for trans Republicans who spoke with The 19th about running in their local elections.
Forty-six percent of Republicans polled from February 25 to 27 by Data for Progress said they believe the government should leave decisions about gender-affirming care to families and their doctors, while 43 percent said the government should prevent trans youth from accessing that care. Eleven percent said they weren’t sure.
Still, a majority of Republican voters indicated in a later question that they supported Texas’ order to investigate families seeking gender-affirming care for their children, which also directs teachers and doctors to report trans children receiving that care.
GOP lawmakers have in the past year introduced a record-breaking onslaught of legislation to restrict and criminalize trans youth’s access to gender-affirming care like hormone treatment and puberty blockers, both widely recommended by the foremost medical associations on trans health. So far only Arkansas has succeeded, and that measure is tied up in a lawsuit. But other moves, such as the Texas directive, have endangered or stopped programs providing that care.
Such legislation can cause harm even in places where it does not pass or take effect. Two-thirds of LGBTQ+ people aged 13 to 24 told Morning Consult and youth LGBTQ+ advocacy group the Trevor Project earlier this year that debates over anti-trans bills had negatively impacted their mental health. Families from Arkansas and Texas have uprooted to move to different states. Advocates have repeatedly warned that the rhetoric will cause trans homicides to continue increasing.
Several transgender conservatives told The 19th that watching GOP state lawmakers advance so many anti-trans bills has been frustrating — and that this poll suggests Republicans’ opinions on trans health care, as well as their knowledge of it, is more varied than those lawmakers may expect.
Jordan Evans, a trans Republican who has continued to run for local office in Massachusetts after transitioning in 2015 — when, to her knowledge, she became the first openly trans GOP elected official in the United States — said the split in opinion in the poll is comforting.
“I’ll take that as there are still enough people out there who understand why this is such a travesty and are willing to be like, ‘Well, I’m not sure if that’s OK,’” she said. “We need those people right now. … We need them to also speak up and speak out.”
To Jennifer Williams, the nation’s first openly transgender municipal chair for the Republican Party, the poll suggests that anti-trans bills may not be the winning issue that some Republicans want it to be.
“It’s abysmal, it’s terrible what’s happening. And it is purely done for political purposes,” Williams said.
“It’s embarrassing that there are Republicans who think that this is a way to build their name,” she said.
The poll’s split in opinion on the government’s role in gender-affirming care did not carry over to the latest developments in Texas. Responding to a separate question on that same survey, 59 percent of likely GOP voters said they either strongly support or somewhat support the order to investigate the families of trans children, while only 31 percent said they somewhat or strongly oppose it.
Charlotte Clymer, a Democrat and first trans board member of LPAC, a super PAC that funds LGBTQ+ women running for office, said the discrepancy between the questions follows a polling trend of voters being more open to supporting trans rights when asked about it in broader terms.
“I think most Republican voters, at the end of the day, don’t know what to think about trans issues,” she said. “The leaders of the party may want action against trans kids because they feel that this will help their bottom line politically, but … it's not really clear that the base necessarily wants this.”
Misinformation could be further driving that wedge between Republican voters’ support for Texas’ anti-trans order and their opposition to broader government interference with gender-affirming care, Williams said.
Gender-affirming care for trans youth is not controversial in the medical community. The American Academy of Pediatrics backs the care and several studies have found the care reduces suicidality and depression. LGBTQ+ and trans advocates, as well as families of trans youth and providers of gender-affirming care, have stressed that the care is life saving.
Gender-affirming care is extremely important, Evans said. Although she’s not unhappy with where she is now, being able to access that care when she was younger would have made a big difference in her life.
“I was a closeted queer youth, in particular for me a closested trans youth, and I did not have any resources. I did not have anyone to talk to,” she said. “I can't even imagine how different things would’ve been if I had resources, let alone access, to affirming care.”
Bhavik Kumar, who oversees health care for trans adults at Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast and serves as Texas’ lead for the advocacy group Committee to Protect Health Care, said that Texas’ attempts to label gender-affirming care for minors as child abuse “adds an air of stigma” onto care that, while it may be legally and politically complex, is not medically complex.
“It has direct implications on folks that are doing the work now but also has implications on the future generation of providers,” he said.
The Data for Progress onlinepoll of 1,162 likely voters, with a margin of error of ±3 percentage points weighted to be representative by age, gender, education, race and voting history, was carried out as part of the organization's weekly omnibus survey, spokesperson McKenzie Wilson said. Forty-two percent said they live in a suburban area, 28 percent reported living in urban areas, and 29 percent said they live in a rural area.
Previous polling has also suggested that many Republicans do not support anti-trans bills. A PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist survey from last spring found that two-thirds of Americans opposed laws to limit transgender rights — and that 70 percent of polled Republicans opposed bills to prohibit gender-transition-related care for minors. GOP opposition nearly matched Democrat opposition.
Within the party, another poll from LPAC from last year suggests that younger Republicans are more open to supporting trans rights than their older counterparts. The organization’s national survey with Lake Research Partners last fall found that young Republicans had more positive views of politicians who support trans rights than older Republicans.
Being a trans Republican in the current political climate can be challenging. Adelynn Campbell, a barista living in Michigan, in 2018 went for the second time to the Conservative Political Action Conference, known as CPAC, a gathering of conservative activists. She was excited to meet other trans conservatives since this was her first CPAC after starting her transition.
Although she later canvassed for Republican North Carolina state Rep. Phillip Shepard’s 2019 congressional district race and started political work in D.C. through a temp agency, Campbell has since left working in politics because she did not feel safe coming out as a trans woman, she said.
“It can be difficult working as a trans person in the Republican Party, in some places,” she said. After the 2020 election, she now considers herself an independent who mostly aligns with conservative policies.
Evans said that she has been discouraged and disappointed as she watches state lawmakers within her own party push more and more anti-trans bills — and she asked Republicans who disagree with the legislation to voice their dissent.
“I’m hurt, like any trans person is right now. We’re all kind of in pain,” Evans said. “But what really gets me is just how this has been allowed to get to this point.”
The 19th is an independent, nonprofit newsroom reporting at the intersection of gender, politics and policy.
Under Katy ISD gender policy, student identities disclosed to parents 19 times since August
Public records obtained by the Houston Landing offer the first glimpse at how often the new, hotly contested policy has been used to disclose LGBTQ+ students’ identities to parents — even if the students aren’t ready.
Since narrowly passing a controversial gender policy two months ago, Katy Independent School District has sent 19 notifications informing parents that their child identified themselves as transgender or requested to use different names or pronouns at school.
The number of parental notifications, obtained by the Houston Landing through a public records request, is the first glimpse at how often the new, hotly contested policy has been used to disclose LGBTQ+ students’ identities to parents — even if the students aren’t ready.
So far, the district averages a notification to a parent roughly once every three days.
The district’s policy requires staff to inform parents if their student requests to use different pronouns or names, or if they identify themselves as transgender — and obtain written parental consent to comply with the request. It also prohibits employees from asking for students’ preferred pronouns and discussing “gender fluidity,” and requires students to use bathrooms that align with their sex assigned at birth.
Jarred Burton, a student leader at Tompkins High School’s Sexuality and Gender Alliance, said the number of notifications already sent to parents is both depressing and surprising. Critics, including Katy parents, LGBTQ+ students and local advocates, have blasted the policy as a dangerous measure with the potential to expose students’ gender identities to unsupportive parents, further harming a community that already faces a higher risk of mental health issues than their peers.
“It’s just sad to see this actually happening,” Burton said. “It shows that (the policy) is not a bluff.”
Board members who supported the policy hailed it as a measure that would center parents’ right to be informed about their child’s gender identity and protect teachers from making uncomfortable decisions about concealing such information from parents.
“(Parents are) supposed to be looking after the health and welfare of their child,” Board President Victor Perez said at a late August meeting. “Withholding that information from the parent, that is a great burden on staff.”
It’s unclear how many parents were already aware of their child’s gender identity. District officials also did not make any board members available for an interview on the matter.
“The policy is intended to provide parents and guardians the opportunity to be made aware of their child’s name change request, and the opportunity to grant or deny approval of said request,” Katy spokesperson Nick Petito said in a statement Wednesday.
Ash Thornton, a transgender man and a junior at Tompkins High School, said the number of notifications being sent home will discourage LGBTQ+ students from feeling safe to explore their identities.
“It signals that it’s something bad, them being transgender or expressing gender in a way that’s different,” Thornton said. “It definitely messes up student-teacher relationships.”
Employees are not required to comply with a student’s name or pronoun change even if a parent gives consent, the policy states.
One staff member on every campus is responsible for processing and sending notifications to parents and guardians, Petito said. The policy makes an exception for “cases of suspected abuse.”
Students belonging to LGBTQ+ clubs have told the Landing the policy has caused their schools to become less of a safe space and has instilled fear among LGBTQ+ youth in Katy.
“There’s just been this looming cloud of dread over a lot of people,” Burton said in a September interview. “There’s gonna be a lot of people that get in trouble by their parents or get hurt. … It just sometimes keeps me up at night a little bit because it’s hard to imagine how much hate people can have to pass something like this.”
The number of notifications sent to parents to date leaves Thornton to wonder what else is to come.
“It’s only been two months and there’s already 19, how many more people are going to be affected by even just the end of the semester?” he said.
The Houston Landing is a nonprofit newsroom devoted to public service journalism for all Houstonians.
‘This is a make or break moment’: Tennessee families ask Supreme Court to take on gender-affirming care
For the first time, attorneys working for LGBTQ+ rights have asked the Supreme Court to rule on a gender-affirming care ban for transgender youth.
This story was originally published by The 19th
For the first time, attorneys working for LGBTQ+ rights have asked the Supreme Court to rule on a gender-affirming care ban for transgender youth. Lawyers with Lambda Legal and the ACLU, alongside other legal partners, are asking the court to block Tennessee’s law preventing trans youth from accessing gender-affirming care.
Tennessee’s ban on puberty blockers and hormone treatments for trans youth first took effect this summer, when a panel of judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit blocked the statewide injunction that had kept the law from taking hold. A full decision came in September, when the 6th Circuit found that gender-affirming care bans for trans youth must stay in place in Kentucky and Tennessee as lawsuits continue.
Tennessee law allows patients already receiving care to continue until March 2024, but physicians have already begun weaning trans adolescents off their hormone treatments to avoid a sudden cut-off of treatment next spring, Sruti Swaminathan, a Lambda Legal staff attorney, previously told The 19th.
Attorneys representing transgender youth and their families in Tennessee are asking the Supreme Court to determine whether the state’s law violates the 14th Amendment’s equal protection and due process clauses. These questions are at the core of recent conflicting decisions between federal appeals courts and lower courts that some LGBTQ+ experts have previously seen as the groundwork for a Supreme Court case on gender-affirming care.
“This next step is both uncertain and necessary. We must fight back with every tool that we have,” Chase Strangio, one of the most prominent transgender attorneys in the country, said on Instagram while announcing the high court petition. Strangio is the deputy director for transgender justice at the ACLU’s LGBTQ & HIV Project.
In a written post on the ACLU’s website, Strangio alluded to the risk inherent in asking a conservative-majority Supreme Court to take up the case — while maintaining that advocates must exhaust every available option to protect gender-affirming care.
“We have witnessed this court disregard and infringe people’s bodily autonomy repeatedly, most recently with its devastating decision in Dobbs, which overturned Roe v. Wade,” he wrote. “We take this step with full knowledge that, no matter what happens, we will have to fight for each other and use every tool in our toolbox to defend all our rights to bodily autonomy.”
Four attorneys who have worked directly in other lawsuits on gender-affirming care bans or LGBTQ+ cases said that this marks the first time that a gender-affirming care ban for transgender youth has been appealed to the Supreme Court.
Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights — who has been representing LGBTQ+ rights cases for decades — said that given the sheer number of states enacting gender-affirming care bans and other anti-LGBTQ+ laws, advocates have no choice but to fight them in court. After the 6th Circuit ruled in late September that gender-affirming care bans for trans youth must remain in place in Kentucky and Tennessee, taking the fight to the Supreme Court became necessary, he said.
“The stakes of a Supreme Court case are extremely high,” he said. “This is a make or break moment.”
If the court agrees to take up the case, it will either give transgender youth and their families relief and alleviate some of the hostile political pressure against trans people in the United States — or it will greenlight Tennessee’s law and pave the way for more attacks, Minter said.
The Supreme Court has recently declined to get involved with several trans rights cases, and in doing so, granted wins to advocates through inaction. The high court declined to intervene in a case on whether transgender student Gavin Grimm could use the bathroom that matched his gender identity, and whether a trans girl in West Virginia could play in school sports.
The Supreme Court has also declined to take up cases, most recently in 2021, in which attorneys representing incarcerated transgender women sought review of decisions denying gender-affirming care to their clients, said Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, counsel and health care strategist at Lambda Legal.
The case of Aimee Stephens — which led to the high court’s landmark 2020 ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County — is the only recent example of the Supreme Court agreeing to review a case involving trans rights being threatened, said Chris Erchull, an attorney at GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders. In that ruling, the Supreme Court found that LGBTQ+ people are protected against workplace discrimination.
“As far as the very recent and unprecedented slate of attacks that include bans on access to bathrooms, bans on access to participation in sports, bans on drag shows, and most alarmingly, the bans on access to health care, this is the first case that has been appealed to the Supreme Court,” Erchull said.
In light of the unprecedented scope of these legislative attacks, it is crucial that transgender Americans do not give in to fear, Minter said. These laws are meant to silence and repress trans people, and to scare the community into inaction and hiding.
“We all have to do everything we can, within our power, to resist that,” he said.
The 19th is an independent, nonprofit newsroom reporting at the intersection of gender, politics and policy.
Texas’ ban on certain drag shows is unconstitutional, federal judge says
Senate Bill 12 would have prohibited performers from dancing suggestively or wearing certain prosthetics in front of children. Critics sued the state, saying it violated the First Amendment.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune
U.S. District Judge David Hittner found Senate Bill 12 “impermissibly infringes on the First Amendment and chills free speech.” The struck-down law prohibited any performers from dancing suggestively or wearing certain prosthetics in front of children.
Hittner ruled that language discriminated based on viewpoint and is unconstitutionally overbroad and vague.
“The Court sees no way to read the provisions of SB 12 without concluding that a large amount of constitutionally-protected conduct can and will be wrapped up in the enforcement of SB 12,” the ruling reads. “It is not unreasonable to read SB 12 and conclude that activities such as cheerleading, dancing, live theater, and other common public occurrences could possibly become a civil or criminal violation.”
The plaintiffs who sued the state celebrated the order, saying in statements shared by their lawyers that the decision affirmed their rights to express themselves.
“I am relieved and grateful for the court’s ruling,” drag performer Brigitte Bandit said. “My livelihood and community has seen enough hatred and harm from our elected officials. This decision is a much needed reminder that queer Texans belong and we deserve to be heard by our lawmakers.”
Republican state Sen. Bryan Hughes, who authored SB 12, defended the bill and pledged to challenge the ruling. The Texas Attorney General’s Office will appeal the ruling, a spokesperson said.
“Surely we can agree that children should be protected from sexually explicit performances. That’s what Senate Bill 12 is about,” Hughes said. “This is a common sense and completely constitutional law, and we look forward to defending it all the way to the Supreme Court if that’s what it takes.”
Critics of the bill, though, say that Republican lawmakers and officials this year have incorrectly — and unfairly — portrayed all drag performances as inherently sexual or obscene.
While SB 12 was originally billed as legislation that would prevent children from seeing drag shows, the final version did not directly reference people dressing as the opposite gender.
However, Republican leaders, including Gov. Greg Abbott, made it clear that drag shows were the bill’s target — comments and history that Hittner wrote “the court cannot ignore.”
Last month, Hittner temporarily blocked SB 12 from taking effect on Sept. 1 after a two-day hearing for a lawsuit filed against the state by a drag queen and LGBTQ+ groups.
LGBTQ+ Texans, advocates, artists and business groups who sued the state, argued that the law discriminates against the content of performances and restricts equally protected free expression that is protected under the First and 14th Amendments.
In Tuesday’s 56-page ruling, Hittner noted a survey of court decisions “reveals little divergence from the opinion that drag performances are expressive content that is afforded First Amendment protection.”
“Drag shows express a litany of emotions and purposes, from humor and pure entertainment to social commentary on gender roles,” the ruling reads. “There is no doubt that at the bare minimum these performances are meant to be a form of art that is meant to entertain, alone this would warrant some level of First Amendment protection.”
Other states have passed similar legislation restricting drag performance, which have also been struck down by federal courts.
In June, a federal judge in Tennessee, appointed by former President Donald Trump, ruled a law there was unconstitutional in its effort to suppress First Amendment-protected speech.
Bucking that trend, another Texas federal judge last week issued an opinion that supported drag show restrictions.
U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk said that West Texas A&M University President Walter Wendler acted within his authority when he canceled a campus drag show. Kacsmaryk wrote that Free Speech jurisprudence had “not clearly established that all ‘drag shows’ are categorically ‘expressive conduct.’”
Hittner acknowledged his Panhandle counterpart’s ruling Tuesday. Hittner pointed to a letter in which Wendler explained his reasoning for banning the show, comparing drag to blackface and a slapstick sideshow.
“The president’s sentiment reinforces this Court’s opinion that while some people may find a performance offensive or morally objectionable, it does not mean the performance is not expressive or given First Amendment protection,” he wrote. “Not all people will like or condone certain performances. This is no different than a person’s opinion on certain comedy or genres of music, but that alone does not strip First Amendment protection.”
LGBTQ+ advocates welcomed Hittner’s decision Tuesday.
“Today’s ruling is a celebration for the LGBTQ community and those who support free expression in the Lone Star State,” GLAAD President and Chief Executive Officer Sarah Kate Ellis. “Texas now joins an increasing number of states whose discriminatory and baseless bans on drag performances are being recognized as unconstitutional and an attack against everyone’s freedoms.”
William Melhado contributed to this story.
The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.