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Parents, students express concern over future of trans rights

Juana Garcia/The Cougar

Local transgender rights activists and students expressed a mix of hope and anxiety after a state district judge blocked the state’s investigations into parents of transgender youth.

State District Judge Amy Meachum ruled that families could not be investigated for pursuing gender-affirming care for their children, provided that they are active members of the LGBTQ advocacy group PFLAG.

Kaitie Tolman, American Sign Language interpreting junior and president of the campus LGBTQ organization GLOBAL, said that while this is progress in a positive direction, she worries that not enough people are aware of the exception for it to have a serious impact.

“You can have the cure for cancer, but if nobody knows you have it, that doesn’t do anything,” Tolman said. 

Tolman, who is bisexual and genderfluid, was impacted by the initial directive and briefly went back into the closet out of fear her father might lose his job. While the issue is of great personal importance for her, she also fears that the ruling is not balanced enough.

“It’s great that you have this program that can help people opt out of unfair allegations,” Tolman said. “But I worry parents actually abusing their children could join PFLAG and take advantage of it. There has to be a balance.”

Other students felt that the ruling was making progress but that more needed to be done. 

“The state is stepping closer to the right direction, but this doesn’t go far enough to protect trans kids,” said UH film freshman Alejandro Covo. “A child’s mental health is extremely important, and to be told that they shouldn’t exist and their parents will be arrested is going to cause trauma.”

The debate over transgender youth has grown intense in recent months, with protests over all-ages drag shows in Houston attracting large crowds and even turning violent at points. For parents of transgender youth, the atmosphere can be downright terrifying.

“All of this is about keeping power and control,” said local parent and founder of Parents of Trans Youth, Mandy Giles. “The kids are just pawns. They’re just trying to be themselves and instead, they’re being used by grown-ups for these games.”

While some advocates viewed the recent ruling as a hopeful step forward, it was recently appealed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, leaving the issue unsettled. However, some, like law professor Thomas Oldham, believe it is likely to reach a close soon. 

“It seems to me that these directives represent a substantial intrusion on family autonomy that is likely unconstitutional,” Oldham said. “I find it hard to believe that any court would decide that such parental choices presented an imminent risk of harm to the child.”

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