Texas Investigating Parents of Transgender Teen for 'Child Abuse': Lawsuit

A new lawsuit has been filed against the state of Texas accusing it of investigating the parents of a transgender teenager for child abuse.

The American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal have announced a joint lawsuit against the state a week after Governor Greg Abbott requested the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services investigate the parents of trans children. Two parents, who are unnamed in the suit, are currently under investigation for providing gender-affirming care to their 16-year-old daughter. The mother is a DFPS employee.

"No family should have to fear being torn apart because they are supporting their trans child," said ACLU of Texas strategist Adri Pérez in a statement. "A week before an election, Governor Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a partisan political attack that isn't rooted in the needs of families, the evidence from doctors and the expertise from child welfare professionals."

Pérez also explained the importance of the gender-confirmation procedures that Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton described as potential child abuse.

"Families with trans kids in Texas have been under attack for too long," Pérez said. "Gender-affirming health care saved my life, and other trans Texans should be able to access medically necessary, lifesaving care."

Some gender-affirming or confirming procedures typically begin at age 16 for transgender teenagers whose transition is approved by their physician. Surgical procedures, such as top or bottom surgery, are commonly prohibited against minors until they are 18 years old.

"These efforts to cut off and criminalize necessary health care for transgender minors are in direct conflict with the recommendations of medical professionals and have nothing to do with what's best for trans youth," said ACLU LGBTQ & HIV Project Deputy Director Chase Strangio. "They may be escalating, but these attacks are not new. Trans youth need you to take the fury you have over what's happening in Texas and share it with lawmakers in every state that is trying to make it harder for trans youth to survive."

Newsweek previously reported that Abbott sent a memo to the DFPS asking it to begin investigating the parents of children who received gender-affirming care and procedures for child abuse. The newly filed lawsuit states that this memo does not have "Constitutional or statutory authority; and despite this, the [DFPS] Commissioner nonetheless issued a statement directing DFPS to carry out the governor's wishes and agreeing to follow a nonbinding legal opinion that did not change Texas law."

This alleged lack of legal authority to issue such an order is poised to become a part of the lawsuit. Another critical aspect of the lawsuit is the idea that, due to the already limited number of procedures available to minors, gender-affirming care throughout Texas is actively being blocked off for children and teenagers.

"For Governor Abbott and Attorney General Paxton, it seems the cruelty is the point," said Paul Castillo of Lambda Legal. "Gender-affirming care for the treatment of gender dysphoria is medically necessary care, full stop. Criminalizing that care and threatening to tear children from their families is unconscionable and terrifying, and cannot stand."

Several LGBTQ and transgender-focused organizations also released statements in support of the lawsuit, including the Transgender Education Network of Texas. Also known as TENT, executive director Emmett Schelling called the actions of Abbott and Paxton "sadistic" in his statement.

"Our youth, our communities, will not be used as political props," Schelling said. "We will not allow for these continued efforts to restrict access to life-saving care and criminalize families based on patently false information. To Attorney General Paxton and Governor Abbott, we will not continue to play a sadistic role in your political theater."

When discussing the memo with Newsweek last week, Schelling was hopeful that the request by Abbott would not be ruled as legal in the court of law.

"No judge across the country has ever found a parent guilty of child abuse for supporting and loving their trans kid, and I think that is also a very important piece in this conversation," he said.

Further action on the suit is expected to be announced in the coming days. The lawsuit was announced on March 1, the day of the Texas state primaries.

Newsweek has reached out to Governor Greg Abbott for comment but has not received a response.

Update at 3/1/2022 at 5:13 p.m. EST: This story has been updated to include more information on the lawsuit.

Trans Flags
The ACLU of Texas and Lambda Legal are suing the state of Texas for investigating the family of a 16-year-old transgender teenage girl for unsubstantiated claims of child abuse. Above, transgender pride flags flutter in the wind at a gathering to celebrate International Transgender Day of Visibility on March 31, 2017, in Los Angeles. Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images