Outlawed identities

Gov. Greg Abbott’s order deeming transgender healthcare procedures as child abuse does more harm than good


Photo by Ally Smith

A hand signs Texas’ latest order regarding transgender children. The decision is widely regarded as a threat for minors across the state struggling with gender identity.

On Feb. 22, 2022, Gov. Greg Abbott ordered the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate parents and healthcare providers who provide minors with gender-affirming care, including hormone therapy and elective surgeries. In the order, Gov. Abbott states that such procedures constitute child abuse under existing Texas law. Unfortunately, it is clear that this is discriminatory, anti-trans legislation hidden under the guise of “protecting the children.”

For many trans teens considering transitioning, the earlier, the better. Since undergoing hormone therapy (the process of being prescribed and taking hormones that align with the gender one identifies with) at a younger age can prevent certain stages of puberty of one’s birth sex, a trans individual may instead undergo the puberty of their identified gender. 

Informed consent is a requirement for patients seeking hormone therapy. This means that every patient must be informed on the potential effects, good or bad, it may have on them. Essentially, the system is designed so that every person looking to transition is aware of what they are doing; therefore, this procedure cannot be abusive.

For Abbott to label such a positive procedure as child abuse is confusing at best and horribly bigoted at worst, largely due to the fact that this is practically a non-issue of the government. Gov. Abbott is going out of his way to denounce trans people, and it is deeply ironic for him to use the excuse of child abuse, as preventing a trans person from transitioning could be far more damaging. 

In 2020, the journal Pediatrics published a study that found that 90% of trans adults without access to puberty-blocking medications as teenagers experienced suicidal thoughts. On the other hand, they found that only 75% of trans adults who did have access to puberty blockers as teens experienced suicidal thoughts. While 75% is still a harrowing amount of people, 15% is a significant, notable decrease that access to hormone therapy may have caused. This is what Gov. Abbott is attempting to criminalize.

Furthermore, transition regret is very rare. Studies on the subject report a variety of results, but Cornell University reports that after pooling data from 51 studies, only 0.3% to 3.8% of people who have transitioned regret it. Clearly, the vast majority of people benefit from transitioning.

In the same article, Cornell also reports that transitioning improves general quality of life, self-esteem and relationship satisfaction while reducing anxiety, depression, suicidality and substance abuse. They also add that those who cannot access treatment or deal with unsupportive environments are more likely than the general population to experience worse quality of life, including depression, anxiety and suicidal tendencies. For this reason, Gov. Abbott’s new order is arguably far more abusive than transitioning ever could be. 

Listening to your child and their needs should not be criminally penalized. The government should not be involved in this situation, especially given that their interference could significantly worsen the lives of many teens and their families. Being a trans teen is taxing enough; one should not have to be concerned that the government is going to interfere in their pursuit of happiness on top of that.