Transgender health care, community targeted in new slate of Texas bills

(AUSTIN, Texas) — The Texas legislature has recently introduced anti-transgender bills during Transgender Awareness Week as lawmakers prepare for the 2023 legislative session.

Texas has long been a battleground for transgender rights. The state has been under fire from LGBTQ residents, allies and activists for legislation requiring students to use bathrooms and join sports teams based on their assigned sex at birth.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton called gender-transitioning or affirming procedures “child abuse” earlier this year and urged the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate instances of gender-affirming care among trans youths. That effort has been blocked in court.

However, a new bill tries to legitimize this effort, alongside other bills that affect the LGBTQ community in Texas. Here is a round-up of the proposed legislation:

House Bill 42: Gender-affirming care defined as child abuse

This bill, sponsored by Republican Rep. Bryan Slaton, would define administering, supplying, consenting to or assisting in the administration of gender-affirming care as “child abuse” under the law, which could put parents and physicians in jail. Gender-affirming care, under this law, includes puberty blockers, hormone therapy, and surgeries that are specifically given to trans youth under the age of 18.

This would not apply to an intersex child, who has atypical or ambiguous chromosomal, gonadal, genital, or endocrine characteristics.

House Bill 643: Drag shows deemed ‘sexually oriented’

This bill, sponsored by Republican Rep. Jared Patterson, would dictate that any nightclub, bar, restaurant, or other commercial enterprise that offers drag performances would be legally defined as a “sexually oriented business,” which would prohibit them from allowing an individual younger than 18 years of age to enter the premises of the business.

In the legislative text, a drag performance is when a “performer exhibits a gender identity that is different than the performer’s gender assigned at birth using clothing, makeup, or other physical markers and sings, lip syncs, dances, or otherwise performs before an audience for entertainment.”

As lawmakers continue to effort restrictions on LGBTQ identities, far-right, anti-trans violence against drag shows and performers has been reported across the country — including a drag event at a pub in Oregon that was interrupted by gun-carrying protesters.

House Bill 122 and 41: Gender-affirming care ban

These bills, authored by Republican Rep. Steve Toth, would ban gender-affirming care for transgender youth under the age of 18. If a physician violates the prohibition, it could result in a second degree felony.

These bills would also ban professional liability insurance policies from covering damages assessed against the health care provider who provides the prohibited gender transitioning or gender reassignment procedures.

House Bill 631: LGBTQ content in classroom ban

This bill, also authored by Toth, is reminiscent of the controversial, so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill in Florida.

The bill would ban classroom instruction on gender identity or sexual orientation from kindergarten through fifth grade, or “in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”

Similar bills have been criticized by some LGBTQ rights activists, residents and lawmakers for silencing LGBTQ identities and reinforcing stigma around the LGBTQ communities. Those who support it, like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, say it gives some parents more of a say as to what happens in the classroom.

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