This story was originally published by The 19th
On a September evening in 2016, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and his wife, Angela, arrived at Amber Briggle’s door in Dallas, homemade dessert in hand. The couple had driven from the next county over for dinner.
Briggle was nervous. It’s hard to hate up close, she told herself. But earlier that year, a federal judge had sided with the state’s request under Paxton’s leadership to block a federal mandate allowing transgender students like Briggle’s son to use the bathroom that matched their gender.
A local reporter had sought out Briggle for her response to the ruling. Before leaving, the reporter asked Briggle if she had any questions for Paxton. She had just one: Would the “Paxtons come to dinner and meet her transgender 8-year-old,” she asked. To her surprise, they accepted.
“He literally went into a bathroom with my transgender son so they could wash their hands before dinner,” Briggle recalled. “He turns around and looks and says, ‘This is nice. It’s been a while since I had kids this age.’”
As Paxton was leaving, Briggle asked him to do more to support trans kids, she said. The attorney general shrugged. He didn’t make the laws, he told her. It wasn’t up to him.
Briggle has been reliving this dinner over and over in recent days. On February 18, Paxton, who this year faces a tough reelection, issued a legal interpretation that labels certain types of gender-affirming care for trans kids child abuse. He was backed up by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday. It’s unclear what these moves mean, and experts on trans issues say that no laws in Texas or other states have characterized such medical care as abuse. While it seems unlikely that transgender children will be removed from their parents, parents do worry the move sends a clear message that trans kids are unwelcome in Texas.
“He sits at the table, breaks bread with my children, with my family, in my loving, nonviolent, drug-free, safe and stable home, and then says that families like mine should not exist,” Briggle said. “It’s shameful.”
Paxton’s interpretation is nonbinding. As he told Briggle, attorneys general don’t have the authority to make laws. Last year the state legislature declined to pass Senate Bill 1646, which would have classified gender-affirming care as child abuse. In a statement, Paxton said Texas law already supports his position. Paxton argues that children cannot legally consent to sterilization, a stance that perhaps confuses the science behind reversible puberty blockers, which pause puberty until they can reach an age when they are able to make more permanent medical decisions.
“There is no doubt that these procedures are ‘abuse’ under Texas law, and thus must be halted,” Paxton said. “The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services has a responsibility to act accordingly. I’ll do everything I can to protect against those who take advantage of and harm young Texans.”
Paxton’s office did not respond to a request for comment from The 19th.
Adri Pérez, policy and advocacy strategist at the ACLU of Texas, disagrees with Paxton’s interpretation of the law.
“As of today, there’s no court in Texas or the entire country that has ever found that gender-affirming care can constitute child abuse,” Pérez said.
Perez and other LGBTQ+ advocates are doubtful that the opinion can withstand a legal challenge. The real risk, they say, is that Paxton’s sentiments can fuel anti-transgender sentiment in the country, particularly aimed at youth.
LGBTQ+ advocates say Paxton is playing politics with transgender kids and their families. Ahead of a crowded Republican primary on Tuesday, Paxton is facing securities fraud charges and a federal investigation over bribery and abuse of office. If no candidate clears 50 percent of the vote, which polling indicates is possible, the race will go to a runoff in May.
Emmett Schelling, executive director of the Transgender Education Network of Texas, said he worries that the letter will send a message to trans youth that they are unwelcome in Texas.
“Unfortunately, what we’re seeing is a voracious political appetite really doubling down on how much they’re willing to hurt trans kids in the state for the sake of their campaigning,” Schelling said.
Abbott, who is also up for reelection but is expected to avoid a runoff, has vowed to enforce the opinion and investigate doctors and parents who connect kids to gender-affirming care. It’s unclear how far Abbott will get in enforcing the opinion, given the lack of approval from the legislature as well as federal health care protections that cover transgender people.
Paxton’s 13-page opinion runs contrary to years of medical research and practice on transgender health. The American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics back gender-affirming care for minors. Studies have shown that trans youth who get that care are less likely to show signs of depression and suicidality. A 2020 study published in the journal Pediatrics found that trans adults who had been given puberty blockers as kids were 15 percent less likely to have suicidal thoughts.
Trans children’s rights have been repeatedly targeted in state legislatures in recent sessions. Ten states have passed laws that ban transgender kids from playing sports in the last two years, and Arkansas passed a bill that prevents trans youth from accessing recommended medical care. The Arkansas bill has been temporarily blocked by a federal court.
Texas has been ground zero in the fight over trans kids’ rights. According to Pérez, the legislature considered 50 anti-transgender bills in 2021 alone. Eleven of those bills would have criminalized parents for getting their kids gender-affirming medical care. Texas passed just one anti-trans bill, a ban on transgender youth participation in sports.
Schelling says policy, politics and strategy do matter. “But at the end of the day, the thing that is important to me is that for my people — children and adults — this is extraordinarily serious, and I don’t think people understand that.”
Meanwhile, Briggle has been watching uncomfortably as families like hers panic. Parents are saying they are preparing to leave the state, she said.
“He’s just sowing more confusion, and it’s hurting parents,” Briggle said. Parents are confused: “Are their kids gonna get taken from them or not?”
The 19th is an independent, nonprofit newsroom reporting at the intersection of gender, politics and policy.
Judge temporarily blocks some Texas investigations into gender-affirming care for trans kids
The state has been investigating whether parents who provide access to gender-affirming health care are committing child abuse. The temporary restraining order is part of a lawsuit filed on behalf of three families and members of PFLAG, an LGBTQ advocacy group.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune
An Austin judge has temporarily stopped the state from investigating many parents who provide gender-affirming care to their transgender children. The state has ruled out allegations of child abuse against one family under investigation, but at least eight more cases remain open.
Travis County District Judge Jan Soifer issued a temporary restraining order Friday in a lawsuit filed on behalf of three families and members of PFLAG, an LGBTQ advocacy group that claims more than 600 members in Texas.
Brian K. Bond, executive director of PFLAG National, applauded the decision to stop what he called “invasive, unnecessary and unnerving investigations.”
“However, let’s be clear: These investigations into loving and affirming families shouldn’t be happening in the first place,” Bond said in a statement.
This is the latest chapter in an ongoing legal battle stemming from a February order issued by Gov. Greg Abbott, directing the Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate parents who provide gender-affirming care to their transgender children.
The Texas Supreme Court recently blocked the state from investigating one family, which had brought a lawsuit challenging the directive, but overturned a wider injunction that stopped the state from investigating other families.
This new lawsuit, filed Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal, seeks to block investigations into all parents of transgender children who belong to PFLAG.
During Friday’s hearing, Lambda Legal’s Paul Castillo revealed that the state has ruled out allegations of child abuse against Amber and Adam Briggle, who were under investigation for providing gender-affirming care to their 14-year-old son.
The Briggle family, outspoken advocates for transgender rights, once invited Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton over for dinner. Five years later, they ended up at the center of a child abuse investigation that stemmed, in part, from a nonbinding legal opinion that Paxton issued in February.
While their case has been closed, many others remain ongoing. Castillo said one of the families involved in the lawsuit was visited by DFPS investigators Friday morning.
“I do want to highlight for the court that every plaintiff in this case has illustrated the stress and trauma of even the potential of having a child removed, merely based on the suspicion that the family has pursued the medically necessary course of care that is prescribed by their doctor for gender dysphoria,” Castillo said.
Gender-affirming care is recommended by all major medical associations to treat gender dysphoria, the distress someone can feel when their gender identity does not align with their biological sex. Gender dysphoria can be exacerbated as a child approaches puberty, so doctors often prescribe reversible puberty blockers and, sometimes, hormone therapy. More than half of all transgender youth report considering suicide, but the rates are much lower for those who are able to access gender-affirming health care.
The mental health impact of Abbott’s directive has already been clear, according to the lawsuit. One 16-year-old transgender boy, identified in the suit as Antonio Voe, attempted to kill himself after the directive came down. When he was admitted to an outpatient psychiatric facility, the staff reported his family to DPFS for child abuse because he was undergoing hormone therapy, according to the lawsuit.
In the hearing, Assistant Attorney General Courtney Corbello revisited the state’s argument that merely being under investigation by DFPS does not constitute harm to a family.
She also argued that PFLAG cannot bring this legal challenge on behalf of its members since there is no evidence that PFLAG members are being targeted for investigation based on their membership in the association.
Soifer disagreed, granting the temporary restraining order on behalf of the three named plaintiffs and PFLAG members. Soifer directed the lawyers to schedule a hearing in the coming days, where a judge will hear evidence and decide whether to extend the restraining order.
The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.
Austin Pride Rescheduled
The Austin Pride Foundation announced that this year’s Austin Pride celebration, originally scheduled for Saturday, August 13, 2022, has been rescheduled for the following weekend. This year’s Austin Pride Festival and Parade will now be held on Saturday, August 20, 2022.
According the a post on Facebook, the change was made at the request of the City of Austin:
We will celebrate Austin Pride No! Matter! What! At the request of the City of Austin, our new date for Austin Pride is Saturday, August 20, 2022. One more week also gives us a chance to go Beyond the Rainbow for the Pride we deserve after two long years. This year the rainbow shines no matter what! See you there.
This will be the first pride celebration in Austin since 2019, after all events in 2020 were canceled as a result of the pandemic and canceled again in 2021 due to a surge of infections caused by the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
Dallas Southern Pride Announces the 2022 Juneteenth Unity Weekend
More than 20,000 people expected to attend the star-studded event featuring A-List celebrities including Moneybagg Yo, The City Girls, Saucy Santana, and Dallas’ own, Yella Beezy and Erica Banks
DALLAS — Dallas Southern Pride will host its Juneteenth Unity Weekend celebration, June 16-19, 2022. This year’s celebration will include a myriad of events, including health and wellness screenings, COVID-19 vaccinations, concerts, their annual Juneteenth Unity Festival and Pool Party, various local club events, parties and The Emancipation Ball. Some of the biggest stars in hip-hop and entertainment are confirmed for this unforgettable four-day weekend of festivities, including the City Girls, Saucy Santana, and Moneybagg Yo, who will perform at the Juneteenth Unity Festival and Pool Party on Saturday, June 18 from 5 PM – 9 PM at Samuell-Grand Aquatic Center, 3201 Samuell Blvd., Dallas, Texas; and Dallas’ own superstars Erica Banks and Yella Beezy, who will perform at the Mega Party that Saturday at 10 PM at Amplified, 10262 Technology Blvd E, Dallas, Texas. The weekend of events will conclude with a signature brunch on Sunday, June 19, hosted by Kirk Myers-Hill, president of Dallas Southern Pride.
More than 20,000 people from across the United States and internationally are slated to attend this year’s Juneteenth Unity Weekend celebration, which was created to celebrate the brilliance and culture of Black people. An idea birthed by community leader, businessperson and activist, Kirk Myers-Hill, the Juneteenth Unity Weekend is the official annual celebration for Black Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans, and Queer (LGBTQ+) people to come together and celebrate their contributions to both American and Black culture, liberation and community.
“Juneteenth Unity Weekend is a celebration and representation of the many intersections and beautiful mosaics within the Black community,” said Kirk Myers-Hill, president of Dallas Southern Pride. “The Black community is only as strong as its Black Gay brothers and sisters. Juneteenth is an opportunity to showcase unity and display the belief that we are all stronger together.”
Juneteenth became a federally recognized national holiday in 2021. However, long before the nation started celebrating this holiday, Black people in Texas were celebrating this day, as it originated in Texas. The Emancipation Proclamation, which granted freedom to slaves, was signed 1863. However, it wasn’t until two years later on June 19, 1865, that slaves in Texas first learned of their freedom. Union troops entered Galveston, TX, announcing that all slaves were free. This marked the beginning of Juneteenth as it is known and recognized today. Since 2017, the Governor of Texas has submitted a proclamation recognizing the Juneteenth Unity Weekend. Additionally, Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson continues to show her support by issuing welcome letters for the past five years. The Juneteenth Unity Weekend is a family-oriented celebration with events and programming for the entire community and is excited to bring the celebration of Juneteenth back home to Texas. June is also Pride Month and the Juneteenth Unity Weekend has been a staple event in the city of Dallas during Pride month for many years.
“VisitDallas is excited to support the 2022 Juneteenth Unity Weekend hosted by Dallas Southern Pride and Abounding Prosperity, Inc. Events like this continue to make Dallas a better place to live and visit,” said Craig T. Davis, president and CEO of VisitDallas.
Since its inception in 2008, the Juneteenth Unity Weekend continues to make a positive impact in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex by unifying the community, celebrating freedom, providing a safe space for community gathering, and infusing millions of dollars into the local economy. The 2021 Juneteenth Unity Weekend brought thousands of visitors to the Metroplex, and sold-out all its host hotels. The event generated more than $2.2 million dollars for local business hit hard by the global COVID-19 pandemic and created hundreds of jobs for “gig” workers. The event and leadership team also created other historic moments for the city of Dallas. As a result, the HIV positivity rate dropped below 10 percent for the first time in the event’s history among more than 200 attendees tested; the Dallas Police Department held a recruitment drive targeting LGBTQ+ applicants; the Dallas skyline was lighted in the Juneteenth and Black Pride colors for the first time and The Dallas Southern Pride Official Pride flag was debuted and flown for the first time at the Sheraton Market Center.
The Juneteenth Unity Weekend is a collaborative celebration made possible by the support of the many companies and organizations that share the collective vision for this impactful event that advances the entire Black family and social justice movements and celebrates unity and peace. The 2022 presenting sponsors thus far are Gilead Sciences and Abounding Prosperity, Inc., along with Black Entertainment Television (BET) and ViiV Healthcare as diamond sponsors. Other key sponsors include the Dallas Mavericks, Radio One Dallas, Dallas TPID, AHF, Yale School of Nursing, Johns Hopkins University, HVTN, SBPAN, AIDS United, VisitDallas, Hilton, Center for Black Equity, United Black Ellument, Crawford Jewelry, and Don Morphy.
A portion of the proceeds from this year’s Juneteenth Unity Weekend will be used to support the free health, and wellness activities of its partner agencies, which offsets the cost of essential services to Black and Brown communities, with an emphasis on LGBTQ+ communities and their families in the DFW metroplex.
The Juneteenth Unity Weekend is still open for additional sponsors and vendors, particularly those in the arts, entertainment, health and wellness, skincare, clothing, beauty, food and beverage including food trucks, and lifestyle brands.
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.dallassouthernpride.com.
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