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Will Texas Criminalize Supportive Parents of Trans Kids?

Texas protesters

Legislators debate a bill making it "child abuse" to let kids have transition procedures, while advancing a trans-exclusionary sports bill.

The Texas Senate advanced a bill Wednesday that would bar transgender athletes from participating in school sports under their gender identity, and the state is considering a radical bill on gender-confirmation procedures for minors -- criminalizing parents who help their children obtain such care.

The Senate passed the trans-exclusionary sports bill by a vote of 18-12, sending it on to the House. The bill's text addresses sports in public schools and open-enrollment charter schools, not state colleges and universities. It would require students to be assigned to the teams designated for their "biological sex" as shown on their original, unamended birth certificate.

"This is about protecting female athletes and recognizing their accomplishments within their biological peer group," said the bill's sponsor, Republican Sen. Charles Perry, according to Austin's CBS affiliate. "I have families that are legitimately concerned about a biological male playing in a competitive contact sport and doing bodily injury permanently." But Perry admitted he didn't know of any trans athletes currently involved in interscholastic sports in Texas.

Democratic Sen. Nathan Johnson said concerns about safety should focus on certain sports where the majority of injuries occur, such as football, The Texas Tribune reports. He also said the legislation could hurt not only trans kids but cisgender or nonbinary ones who have a nontraditional gender expression, and said it's dealing with a nonexistent problem.

"I think we spend a lot of time anticipating things that aren't going to happen," he said. "If this becomes a real problem, there might be a more subtle way we can handle it."

Parents of trans children have rallied at the Texas capitol against the sports bill and other anti-trans legislation, including a bill banning gender-affirming care for minors and another that defines the provision of this care as child abuse. Perry is the lead sponsor of the latter bill, which would "redefine child abuse to include administering, supplying or consenting to provide puberty suppression drugs, hormone replacement therapy, or surgical or medical procedures to anyone under 18 'for the purpose of gender transitioning or gender reassignment,'" NBC News reports.

If the bill becomes law, parents who violate it would face punishments including two to 10 years in prison and having their children placed in foster care, Brian Klosterboer, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, told NBC.

In a hearing on the bill Monday, Perry, identifying himself as "a dad, a granddad, and deacon in a Baptist church," claimed he's simply trying to protect children from what he called irreversible procedures. However, doctors say the effects of hormones and puberty blockers are reversible, and they do not recommend genital surgery for people under 18.

"God gave us a season in life, and it's to have innocence up to a certain point and then unfortunately we lose that innocence," Perry said. "When parents interject things that rob them of that innocence and really robs them of a future, we have a problem."

Parents gathered at the capitol termed this and other anti-trans bills appalling. "It really makes me wonder if I can still live in Texas," Camille Rey, the mother of a transgender son, told the Austin CBS affiliate. She testified Monday against the criminalization bill and Wednesday against another piece of legislation, this one allowing health care workers to deny care that violates their moral, ethical, or religious beliefs, even if they're involved in the procedure only indirectly.

"Why would you be a medical professional if you would turn away from another breathing, living, human person," Rey said. "I just don't get it. "To deny my child care is just horrifying."

The bills being considered in Texas are part of a spate of anti-trans and more broadly anti-LGBTQ+ legislation introduced this year in states around the nation. Arkansas,Mississippi, and Tennessee have seen trans-exclusionary sports bills signed into law, while South Dakota's governor has issued executive orders to this effect. In Arkansas, Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed a bill into law allowing health care providers to refuse care that offends their religious or moral beliefs. He vetoed a bill denying transition-related care to minors, but lawmakers overrode his veto.

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