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Texas health providers are suspending gender-affirming care for teens in response to GOP efforts

Hospitals across the state have already started restricting critical treatment as health care providers fear legal consequences and worry they could lose their medical licenses. Meanwhile, teenagers are already leaving the state to get care or avoiding medical care altogether.



Psychotherapist Monrovia Van Hoose in her Austin office on March 11. Van Hoose, who began working with transgender youth in 2008, has seen an impact on transgender youth after the state’s largest providers of medical care for transgender children recently rolled back their services. (Lauren Witte/The Texas Tribune)

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune

Jennifer’s 15-year-old son had been on testosterone therapy for only two weeks when she got a call from his doctor. The exchange felt “very clandestine,” she said.

“He calls from his personal number, calls my personal number [and] doesn’t use my child’s name because he’s scared somebody is recording the conversation,” Jennifer said.

The doctor told her he could no longer prescribe her son’s treatment. The medical malpractice insurance carrier, he explained, had stopped covering doctors who offered hormone therapy to minors.

The doctor’s call came a week after Gov. Greg Abbott ordered investigations into parents and licensed facilities that provide standard medical care to transgender teenagers. Abbott’s order was based on a nonbinding interpretation from Attorney General Ken Paxton that classified puberty blockers, hormone therapy and surgical care as child abuse.

Jennifer asked The Texas Tribune not to disclose her last name because she fears the state could launch an investigation into her family for obtaining hormone therapy.

Leading medical organizations across the country say gender-affirming care is the best way to provide care for transgender children. It primarily involves choices around name, pronouns and clothing that align with a child’s gender identity. It can eventually include puberty blockers and hormone treatment. Surgical care is rarely, if ever, performed on teenagers.

On Monday, a state appeals court reinstated a lower court’s injunction temporarily halting the investigation of transgender kids’ parents and medical providers. The court says the injunction will remain in place while an appeal of the decision plays out.

But in response to the Texas GOP’s recent efforts to limit scientifically backed gender-affirming care, LGBTQ advocates say hospitals, insurance companies and pharmacies across the state had already started restricting critical treatment for fear of legal consequences.

Health care providers worry they could lose their medical licenses if they don’t abide by Abbott’s directive.

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy told the Tribune that Abbott’s directive has had a chilling effect on health care practitioners, hospital systems and clinics.


“What’s happening right now is the state inserting itself between doctors, patients and families,” Murthy said. “That runs counter to the integrity of the doctor-patient relationship.”

Transgender teenagers now are grappling with narrowing access to medical care in a state where adequate, inclusive health care is already hard to come by. The lack of access has driven some to secure a substandard quality of care and others to stop seeking care altogether.

Jennifer said the doctor’s decision to stop hormone therapy was devastating for her family. She had searched for months for a pediatrician who would use her son’s correct pronouns and respect his identity. She had combed through parent Facebook groups and left voicemails with multiple health care centers before she met the doctor who started his treatment. Now she’s back at square one.

“You can’t find this care easily. Everyone is taking it off their website,” Jennifer said. “It’s like you got to know a secret handshake and then the secret knock and then the right phone number. It’s ridiculous what you have to go through to get your kid life-saving medical care.”

Providers roll back treatment

Teens who get approved for hormone therapy do so with great medical oversight. But before getting to that point, the standard approach to care for transgender youth begins with counseling and mental health evaluations.

Mental health professionals first help transgender clients navigate their gender identity. They can diagnose transgender clients with gender dysphoria by following a diagnosis tool published by the American Psychiatric Association. Therapists may later refer clients to doctors for hormone therapy and puberty blockers, and those doctors would complete a separate evaluation before prescribing medication. It’s a process that can span years.

The state’s largest providers of medical care for transgender children, however, have recently rolled back those services, bending to pressure from Republican leaders.

Texas Children’s Hospital, the largest pediatric hospital in the country, stopped providing hormone therapy to transgender children earlier this month. A spokesperson said the Houston-based hospital was assessing Abbott’s directive and that the decision to discontinue the service was made to avoid “potential criminal ramifications.”

Legacy Community Center, another major provider in Houston for transgender children, also paused hormone therapy for minors after the directive was announced, according to advocates for transgender Texans who work closely with the clinic. Legacy did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

And in Dallas, GENECIS — Gender Education and Care, Interdisciplinary Support — the state’s largest gender-affirming program, formally dissolved in November. The closure was in response to pressure from the governor’s office and a Texas House investigative committee, according to recordings of internal meetings obtained by The 19th. Existing patients can continue hormone therapy, but new patients at GENECIS can only access psychiatric evaluations and counseling, and be evaluated for gender dysphoria.


A doctor who headed the GENECIS program recently filed a petition against her employer, UT Southwestern Medical Center, to find out why the hospital cut care.

Gender-affirming medical and mental health care has always been in short supply in Texas, even before the GOP started targeting transgender children. So when the three major providers of gender-affirming care decided to halt their services, it was a huge blow for transgender Texans already struggling to find treatment, said Austin-based psychotherapist Monrovia Van Hoose, who often works with transgender youth.

The recent anti-trans efforts are “a backlash against what I would call pretty modest gains in access to care for minors in Texas,” she said. “I was very saddened to hear that GENECIS closed down. That was a big deal when that facility opened.”

Van Hoose said few doctors were willing to offer gender-affirming care in the state when she started working with transgender teenagers in 2008. More began to offer treatment after the GENECIS clinic opened in 2014.

But beyond GENECIS, Texas Children’s and Legacy, doctors who offer gender-affirming are still few and far between. Lou Weaver, a 51-year-old transgender man who works with health care providers to secure culturally competent care for LGBTQ communities, said Texas medical schools are not offering enough training on how to treat transgender patients, which means most local pediatricians are unable to provide appropriate care for transgender children.

Families often have to make hourslong drives to get medically backed gender-affirming care for their children. One family in the Rio Grande Valley told the Tribune they drive eight hours to Dallas to get care for their child.

But now even those long drives might not be enough to access care as doctors weigh new legal liabilities. When Paxton said gender-affirming care can be considered child abuse, it put health care professionals in a tight spot because they are mandated to report child abuse.

Therapists, pediatricians and doctors could now lose their licenses if they don’t report the families of their transgender clients. Making such reports, however, would violate standards of care from health organizations such as the World Professional Association of Trans Health and the American Medical Association.

Areana Quiñones, executive director of Texas-based Doctors for Change, said health care providers are disappointed legal and political issues are getting in the way of providing science-based medical treatments.

“We’re put in a no-win situation no matter what we do,” said Renee Baker, a Dallas-based therapist. “We don’t want to lose our licenses and ability to practice.”


Weaver said the hospitals could have used their teams of lawyers to advocate for scientifically backed medical treatments, “​​and yet they’re caving.” Health care providers are failing to protect their patients when they pull back treatment in response to political pressure, he said.

Few good choices left 

Weaver said many transgender teenagers in Texas, facing diminishing options for care, will turn to informal channels to get the puberty blockers and hormone prescriptions they need. Some could try to buy prescriptions off of friends or look to the state’s unregulated black market, he said.

“What are you going to do to get what they need? You find a way to get it,” he said. “Our leaders have made this a desperate time for people who need access to health care.”

One teacher said in a written testimony at a Texas Department of Family and Protective Services meeting this month that some of her transgender students have rationed their hormone prescriptions over weeks because of inadequate access to medical care.

Some parents are traveling beyond Texas to get access to gender-affirming medical treatment. Some may also travel out of state to get any kind of medical care out of fear that going to a Texas health provider may require disclosing gender-affirming therapy and lead to a child abuse investigation.

Carrie Jackson drove her 17-year-old transgender son to Oklahoma to get emergency mental health care one week after Abbott issued his directive. Her son woke her up in the middle of the night because he was preparing to attempt suicide. Her son told her Abbott’s directive had made him feel like his existence was creating a threat for his family, she said.

Carrie Jackson stayed up with him through the night and scheduled multiple virtual assessments the following morning. Medical providers told her he needed to be admitted to a hospital.

She wanted to get him help as soon as possible, but she held back from taking him to a local hospital because she was afraid that DFPS, the state child welfare agency, would learn about the gender-affirming care her son has received and open an investigation.

“I don’t want my child in a hospital being interrogated by [DFPS] and without me being able to have any access to him to be there as a support for him,” she said.

Carrie Jackson did some research and found a mental health facility in Oklahoma, about three and a half hours away from their Denton home. Her son was admitted for six days and is stable now.


Some families that cannot leave the state have avoided seeking care altogether.

Jackson, a 15-year-old transgender teenager in North Texas, was supposed to increase his testosterone dosage six months ago. Jackson is not related to Carrie Jackson and did not disclose his last name out of fear that his family would be reported to the state for child abuse over his medical treatment.

He has been a GENECIS patient for two years, but since the clinic formally dissolved, he’s experienced additional barriers to obtain routine medical treatment. Increasing his prescription dosage used to entail a single appointment with his doctor at GENECIS and bloodwork, but he now has to meet with three doctors at three clinics.

What’s more, he and his family are terrified to book an appointment while Abbott’s directive is still being litigated. If DFPS gets a report about his medical care, Jackson might have to stop taking testosterone until his 18th birthday.

Greater risks with delayed care

But Jackson can’t wait another three years for hormone therapy. Gender dysphoria, he said, was an intolerable sense of discomfort that pervaded every part of his life. Since he started testosterone, he has experienced an increasing sense of comfort with his body.

“To be taken off of the one thing that has really changed my life for the better so far — it’s terrible,” Jackson said.

Waiting until adulthood to get hormone therapy may put transgender patients at greater mental health risk. A recent study found that access to gender-affirming hormone therapy in adolescence is associated with better mental health outcomes later in life.

If access to hormones like estrogen and testosterone is disrupted, transgender youth may undergo unwanted puberty changes and experience bodily functions like menstrual bleeding that can be distressing, according to Caroline Davidge-Pitts, an endocrinologist who specializes in trans health care.

When transgender youth experience unwanted changes to their bodies that do not affirm their gender identity, endocrinologists say it will likely lead to more surgeries later in life that otherwise could have been avoided. If a transgender boy, for example, experiences breast growth because he lost access to puberty blockers, he would need chest surgery later, said Joshua D. Safer, an endocrinologist and executive director of the Mount Sinai Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery in New York.

“The point of puberty-delaying medication and hormone therapy for transgender youth when possible is to avoid permanent characteristics that will have to be addressed later,” Safer said.


Kamryn Shelton, a transgender 19-year-old, said his younger peers have attempted suicide when they have not been able to access the medical care they need.

Shelton, who supports teenagers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area through the organization Youth First, worries about youth who become disconnected from their hormone therapy or can no longer get an appointment with a gender-affirming doctor.

“Their mental health will rapidly decline. And if you stop taking your hormone shots or hormone blockers, it’s not only going to mess you up mentally, it’s going to mess with you physically as well.” Shelton said. “It’s going to kill people. If it goes any further, it will literally kill children. And that’s terrifying to me.”

Disclosure: Facebook and UT Southwestern Medical Center have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Sneha Dey is a reporting fellow at The Texas Tribune. She is a senior at Northwestern University, where she studies journalism, legal studies and creative writing. The New York native has previously worked for the Chicago Sun-Times, NPR and Chalkbeat. She has also served as editor in chief of The Daily Northwestern. When she’s not in the newsroom, she is going on runs or eating her way through Austin.


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. 

From the left, Ash Thornton, 16, and Travis Thornton, 16, from Tompkins High School, look through free clothing from Transparent Closet during Katy Pride festival at First Christian Church on Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023, in Katy. (Joseph Bui/Houston Landing)

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 article first appeared on the Houston Landing and is republished here with permission.

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88th Texas Legislature

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.



Drag queen Scarlett Kiss performs at Long Play Lounge in East Austin on June 12, 2021. (Sophie Park/The Texas Tribune)

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune

Texas cannot enforce a new law that restricts some public drag shows, a federal judge said Tuesday in declaring the legislation unconstitutional.

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.

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Texas consistently leads the nation in attacks on trans people. Here’s how Houstonians are fighting back.



Sarah and Andrew Degar of Third Ward Jiu-Jitsu demonstrate different self-defense techniques during a workshop hosted by Trans Masculine Alliance Houston on Saturday, Aug. 26, 2023, in Houston. (Annie Mulligan / Houston Landing)

After attending the Houston Pride parade in June, Søren Beregan just wanted to dance. Beregan, a trans man, and his partner, who is nonbinary, were enjoying themselves at a Montrose-area nightclub when a man approached them. 

“I’m better than you,” the man said aggressively.

Caught by surprise, Beregan laughed it off. “In a way it felt almost affirming as a trans guy to have a cis guy feel threatened by me,” he said, using a shortened form of the word cisgender, which means someone whose gender identity corresponds to their sex at birth. “But then later, I was like, wow, that sucks. It is scary to walk around in public … and know that there are people who are upset seeing you just living your life.”

Although he didn’t show it, Beregan felt helpless. In the past, when he was femme-presenting, he occasionally wore dresses and heels. “I was never taught how to fight. I was never taught how to defend myself. It was always ‘have a guy around you,’” he said.

But since transitioning over a year ago, things are different. He wants to be self-sufficient at a time where there have been increased attacks and hateful rhetoric against his community statewide.

On a recent Saturday morning, Beregan was among roughly 20 attendees in a de-escalation and self-defense workshop at the Montrose Center aimed at training participants on how to defend themselves from a physical attack, in lieu of carrying a gun. 

It’s one of the ways that some trans Houstonians are taking matters into their own hands to protect themselves in Texas, a state that introduced more anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-transgender bills than any other state this year, and at a time when data shows anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric is on the rise. 

Texas lawmakers passed three bills this year that impact trans rights: Senate Bill 12, which bans “sexually oriented performances” – a term originally used to classify drag shows – in the presence of minors; Senate Bill 14, which bans medical care for trans youth to treat gender transitioning or gender dysphoria; and Senate Bill 15, which requires trans college athletes to compete on sports teams based on their biological sex. SB 14 and SB 15 went into effect on Sept. 1, while SB 12 awaits a final ruling from a federal judge in Houston after the ACLU of Texas challenged the law on behalf of several LGBTQ+ organizations.

“With all the anti-trans legislation in Texas, it’s like we’re the next target,” said George Zemanek, the president of Transmasculine Alliance Houston. The group, which organized the weekend workshop, provides community support to anyone assigned female at birth who is questioning their gender or who identifies as non-binary, female-to-male or transmasculine – a term that includes both trans men and nonbinary people assigned female at birth who define their gender as masculine, or who seek medical transition towards masculinization.

Zemanek said the thinking behind the quarterly workshops was, “Let’s do a physical safety training and let’s talk about all these things, because it may become an issue.” 

Ed Kneeland practices an escape move during a self-defense class on Saturday, Aug. 26, 2023, in Houston. The class was hosted by Trans Masculine Alliance Houston, one of the longest running trans groups in Houston dedicated to the transmasculine community. Escape techniques were demonstrated by Third Ward Jiu-Jitsu. Participants also learned about Q Patrol, a patrol group that protected Houston’s gay community in the early 90s from harassment and violence. (Annie Mulligan / Houston Landing)

The secret weapon

Trainers from Third Ward Jiu-Jitsu, a nonprofit organization that aims to provide affordable and inclusive self-defense training,led the workshop, which focused on de-escalation tactics and skills such as dodging a punch, or how to twist away if someone grabs your wrist. Instructors also reminded attendees to remain vigilant and put their phones away in public.

“If you’re just walking around with your head down like this the whole time, it is the perfect opportunity for someone to attack,” said Andrew Degar, the cofounder of the group, while demonstrating. 


A studious Beregan meticulously watched as the instructors broke down different techniques. “I’m a little guy and [when] I do that frame, how do I then quickly back out of that position so that I’m not then just gripped by this giant?” he asked Degar, physically demonstrating the scenario he had in mind. 

Other participants haven’t experienced physical attacks, but wanted to be proactive. 

“I go to the University of Houston. I take public transit so I’m often out and about, so I thought knowing something about breaking away from grabs and getting away from people could be helpful,” said 31-year old Ed Kneelan who took turns practicing with the other participants. 

“Fortunately I haven’t had anything fishy happen ever, but I know that can happen, so I think it’s better to be prepared,” he said.

Participants practice escaping different holds during a self-defense class on Saturday, Aug. 26, 2023, in Houston. The class was hosted by Trans Masculine Alliance Houston, one of the longest running trans groups in Houston dedicated to the transmasculine community. Escape techniques were demonstrated by Third Ward Jiu-Jitsu. Participants also learned about Q Patrol, a patrol group that protected Houston’s gay community in the early 90s from harassment and violence. (Annie Mulligan / Houston Landing)

A proactive approach

By taking a proactive approach, Zemanek believes that it will empower the trans community to be aware and know what to do in situations like a public protest, where people may be at an increased risk of physical violence. 

“I foresee that at some of these protests against anti-trans legislation, you’re gonna start to see trans people getting arrested,” he said. “Some of these protests can be pretty wild.”

A spokesperson from GLAAD, an LGBTQ+advocacy organization, confirmed to the Landing that there have been 209 anti-LGBTQ incidents targeting drag events nationwide since early 2022. Texas consecutively had the most incidents and threats with 21 reported incidents so far this year, and 27 reported incidents in 2022, a representative said via email.

An April update on its 2022 analysis noted that there was an uptick in attacks beginning in Pride season that year, which is typically during June, and continuing through the midterm election cycle. At this year’s Pride celebration in Houston, participants spoke to the Houston Landing about the apprehension they felt due to the wave of anti-trans legislation. “You never know, there’s crazy people that do things that you don’t expect,” Carlos Gallardo told the Landing while celebrating Pride in Montrose.

It’s not just physical attacks and threats that have rattled the trans community. A joint report from GLAAD and the Anti-Defamation League released in June found that anti-LBGTQ rhetoric and harassment has also increased within the last year, with more than 350 hate and extremist incidents recorded in the U.S.; Texas had the third most with 30 incidents. 

Trans nonbinary activist and community organizer Ethan Michelle Ganz speaks to participants about Q Patrol, a patrol group that protected Houston’s gay community in the early 90s from harassment and violence during a security workshop hosted by Trans Masculine Alliance Houston on Saturday, Aug. 26, 2023, in Houston. (Annie Mulligan / Houston Landing)

The return of community patrolling

The rise of anti-LGBTQ+ incidents over the last several years has motivated community activists like Ethan Ganz. He is the co-founder of the Montrose Residents Coalition, a group that is joining forces with the nonprofit Affinity Coalition To Overcome Unethical Theories HTX (ActOutHTX) to revive the work of a Montrose-area volunteer surveillance group called Q-Patrol, which launched in 1991 but dissolved in 2002 due to financial woes, newspaper archives show

“I really think it’s necessary now,” he said to participants assembled in a circle following the training. 

A group of citizens organized Q-Patrol shortly after the murders of Paul Broussard and Phillip Smith, two gay men who were killed outside a gay nightclub in Montrose. Their brutal deaths sparked civil unrest locally, led to national discussions and prompted the Houston Police Department to launch an undercover initiative, dubbed Operation Vice Versa, where officers masqueraded as gay men. Officers were attacked in multiple incidents and many people were arrested within two weeks, according to the website Houston LGBTQ History and ABC13.

Originally Q-Patrol worked in tandem with the police, but now, “That’s not really what they’re trying to do,” Ganz said. “A lot of our people do not feel safe around the police,” he added. 


In the 1990s when the original Q-Patrol reigned, it was illegal to carry a handgun openly or concealed without a license, but open carry was made legal in 2021. Ganz still discourages open carry of any firearms, but said volunteers can carry a concealed weapon, mace or a taser at their discretion. 

Beregan is uncomfortable carrying a gun and can’t pocket his mace or pepper spray into most bars, so he views self-defense as his best weapon. After taking a few classes recently, he now feels better equipped to defend himself and plans to continue training with the Third Ward Jiu Jitsu’s monthly LGBTQ+ focused self-defense classes. But he has no plans of joining Q-Patrol at this time.

Acknowledging their limits, Ganz said the goal of Q-Patrol is to help people before police need to get involved. 

“So if we see somebody that’s alone, we’ll walk them to the car. We see someone drunk in the street, we might engage with them and see what we can do to help them. This is more about being seen engaging our community, taking care of each other.” Ganz said they will also carry power banks to help people charge their phones to call a ride.

More training is needed in de-escalation, CPR, first aid, and, eventually, shooter response practice and Narcan training to ensure safety, Ganz said, but he anticipates Q-Patrol will hit the Montrose streets soon. 

The Houston Landing is a nonprofit newsroom devoted to public service journalism for all Houstonians.

This article first appeared on the Houston Landing and is republished here with permission.

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