Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton recently issued an opinion that gender affirming care for transgender youth constitutes “child abuse.” This is, in fact, not state law. Nonetheless, Texas Governor Greg Abbott used that opinion to require teachers and others to report the parents of transgender youth, and he directed the Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate such allegations.
On Thursday Feb. 24, a statewide dragnet began. Child Protective Services (CPS) notified several parents that allegations of child abuse have been filed against them. We are among those parents. We are speaking out, because we need people to see that these illegal raids on loving families represent a tipping point. Political attacks against transgender youth have escalated over the years to bring us to this decisive moment. It is time for a national reckoning.
Nothing we say will change the minds of the authoritarians directing this horror show. We are speaking to the sympathetic majority of America. We need you to not normalize this state terrorism through your silence. Don’t just wring your hands. We need you to draw a line right here. It is not acceptable that some Americans have to flee their homes to secure their civil rights. Stop telling us to move. Help us.
We are working professionals with two happy, healthy, and kind children. We drive a minivan, volunteer, and go to church. Our son, age 14, is in gymnastics and plays the ukulele. Our daughter, age 9, is in Girl Scouts and does swimming and ballet. We have a suburban home with a pantry full of food and a trampoline in the backyard. In short, we are living our lives just like you. We are the family you would want to place a foster child with, not the family whose children should become foster kids themselves. And yet, the government is attempting to rip our family apart because we love our children unconditionally. Is this who we are, America?
We need you to imagine how it feels to have done nothing wrong, and still get that phone call from Child Protective Services (CPS). When we were notified of the allegations, it was as if the wind had been knocked out of us. We wanted to scream and cry, but we had no air. The room was spinning. Raising a transgender child in Texas has been one long political emergency. It always seemed like this day would come. Now it has arrived. Fear and panic washed over us, leaving us in a fog that has not lifted since. We haven’t slept, and have constant headaches. Eating is done only out of necessity, and it’s hard to keep food down when we do.
We hired a lawyer. That night, we had a family meeting to prepare for the scheduled home interrogation by the CPS agent. We told the children that they have the right to not answer questions. We told them that the government is trying to spy on us even though we have done nothing wrong. We could see the pain, confusion, and hurt in their eyes. How do we square this situation with the civics lessons they are learning in school about our national ideals?
We tucked them into bed, relishing the chance to be close to them. Neither of us slept that night, our bodies aching from the stress. How could we sleep, knowing that the state of Texas was trying to break our family apart? All of us were under the same roof that night. Normally, we take that for granted. No more.
We hired a lawyer to represent our children. That way, they would not have to be isolated and alone with the agent. We wanted to make sure they knew their rights, and that they would have a compassionate adult with them while they were separated from the rest of the family. We also called a social worker, who volunteered to create a home study to bolster our child’s “safe folder.” Many parents of transgender children keep such folders with evidence to show that their children are cared for, that they feel loved, and that they are flourishing as their authentic selves. Have you considered how painfully necessary it is to have a stack of documents, drawings, photographs, and letters collected to prove that you love your kids, in case the state ever tries to take them away? Parents of trans kids know this all too well. Do you understand this now?
If recent history has taught us anything, it is that we have to learn to believe in the unthinkable. The Texas government has launched an effort to round up transgender children and send them off to a broken, overcrowded, and dysfunctional foster care system. A system in which 23 children have died since 2019, due to actual abuse and neglect. We are in the midst of that roundup process right now. Yes, it seems unbelievable, but we need you to see that it is really happening.
Things have been building up to this point for years, but where was the outrage? Where have people been? The media glances our way momentarily until something pulls the nation’s attention away. When stories are actually aired or published, too often “the other side” is given a platform to debate the validity and existence of actual human beings. Meanwhile, we keep sinking into the clutches of zealots. You’ve been letting them get away with it.
At the end of the interview, the case worker requested to inspect the rest of the house. 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 dining room table where we light our chalice before dinner. The gardens and trampoline in the backyard. The beds piled with blankets and stuffed animals. We are so fortunate to have all this. It was impossible for her not to feel the love in our home. We did not allow her in the kids’ bedrooms. She had violated our home by entering it. We didn’t want her violating their sacred spaces, too.
Before she left, she said that we were “clearly doing something right” as she gestured toward our son who was practicing his cello. Then she left. But we are still here, waiting to see how the fate of our family will be decided. We plan to stay and fight as long as we can. That much is certain. The question remaining is: will you finally help?
And not just our family. Will you help the other families in Texas experiencing the same trauma and violation as ours? Are you willing to call your Senator to pass the Equality Act, no matter how hopeless it feels? Are you going to finally vote in the primaries to keep extreme candidates from landing on the ballot in November? Are you going to call these bullies out for what they are doing to children and families?
We are privileged to have the support system to speak out publicly. Many families do not have this, and going public with their story could put their family at greater risk. But our family has been speaking out for years – begging and pleading for your help, and enduring death threats and policies akin to state sanctioned kidnapping for far too long. Yet here we are, standing strong and united as a family, pushing back against government overreach and fascist ideals that only advance one party’s political agenda, and not the people they have been elected to serve. We speak out today not just for our family, but for those who have been forced into silence, and deserve protection too.
We all need you. We cannot do it alone. We are screaming for help. Can you hear us now?
(For more info on this investigation, please contact our lawyer at Jorgeson Pittman LLP at 512 320 0999)