In 2016, Amber Briggle, mother of a transgender boy, hosted Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and his wife, Angela, for dinner so they could see what the life of a trans child was like. Now, because of Paxton's legal opinion that gender-affirming care for minors is "child abuse," Briggle is under investigation.
"Raising a transgender child in Texas has been one long political emergency," Briggle and her family told The Texas Tribune through their lawyer. "It always seemed like this day would come. Now it has arrived."
Based on Paxton's opinion, although it is nonbinding, Gov. Greg Abbott last month directed the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate parents who allow their children to receive gender-affirming health care. This usually includes hormones and puberty blockers, the effects of which are reversible. Paxton's document raised concerns about gender-confirmation surgery, which is generally not performed on minors.
One family under investigation, identified only as the Does, has sued the state and won a temporary restraining order stopping the probe. A judge has scheduled a hearing for Friday to consider blocking such investigations of other families.
The Tribune has confirmed that at least five families are being investigated under Abbott's directive, and there may be more, as the DFPS has declined to state the number, citing the pending lawsuit.
Briggle had invited the Paxtons to her home in Dallas when he and other Republican attorneys general were fighting the Obama administration's guidance recommending that trans students in elementary and secondary schools be allowed to use the restrooms and other facilities of their choice. They had won an injunction against the guidance, which ended up being revoked when Donald Trump became president but has now been reinstated under President Joe Biden.
Briggle's thought in hosting the Paxtons was "it's hard to hate up close," The 19th reports. She had told a local TV reporter that she'd like to have the Paxtons over for dinner so they could meet her trans son, then 8, and they accepted, to her surprise.
Ken Paxton "literally went into a bathroom with my transgender son so they could wash their hands before dinner," Briggle told The 19th. "He turns around and looks and says, 'This is nice. It's been a while since I had kids this age.'"
But at the end of the evening, when she asked Paxton if he would do more to protect trans children, he just shrugged, saying he didn't make the laws.
"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 told The 19th. "It's shameful."
The Briggle family told the Tribune that when a DFPS investigator visited their home, everything went well, but the probe remains open.
"We showed her all the food in our cabinets, the kids' artwork on the walls, the toys, books, and games in the family room. ... The gardens and trampoline in the backyard. The beds piled with blankets and stuffed animals," they said in a statement. "It was impossible for her not to feel the love in our home." The investigator said "clearly doing something right," according to the statement.
"We are the family you would want to place a foster child with, not the family whose children should become foster kids themselves," they said. "And yet, the government is attempting to rip our family apart because we love our children unconditionally. Is this who we are, America?"
Meanwhile, Paxton has amended a lawsuit against the federal government regarding anti-trans discrimination in health care. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has asserted that denial of care based on gender identity is illegal and that health care providers do not have to disclose private patient information on such care. By violating this policy, Texas could lose more than $1 billion in federal funds for health care, the Tribune reports.
Texas had already sued the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and other federal agencies over the Biden administration's guidance on how trans people should be accommodated in workplaces, but Paxton amended the suit Wednesday to include the HHS directives. He claims they are based on "erroneous interpretation of sex discrimination" and that the state is not singling out children by gender but instead is seeking to protect all children from "unnecessary medical interventions."