Anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric is loud. We’re louder.

The anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric has been loud lately. For the past few weeks some state leaders have taken every opportunity to paint the LGBTQ+ community as a threat, committing publicly to policies they will champion through the next legislative session.

Contributing to the noise 

This week alone the Lieutenant Governor, Dan Patrick, pledged to extend the harmful anti-transgender sports ban to the collegiate level and bring Florida’s notorious “Don’t say gay/trans” bill to Texas. These comments were on the heels of Attorney General Paxton purposely misinterpreting state law to baselessly threaten pharmaceutical companies and Austin ISD’s Pride Week.

None of these threats hold the weight of law. But they’re also more than empty rhetoric.

For LGBTQ+ Texans who just want to live, work, and contribute to their communities in peace the constant chatter about potential attacks is exhausting. On top of that, all the noise creates confusion about what is and isn’t current law, feeding into a climate of fear where teachers don’t know if they can affirm their LGBTQ+ students, trans Texans are terrified they won’t have access to healthcare, healthcare providers are scared of providing life-saving care to trans patients, and kids are afraid to be themselves.

Beneath the noise, our community experiences real harm. We know that banning books, or targeting students based on race, genders, or religion has a direct impact on the bullying, harassment, and violence we see in our communities. We’re continuing to receive reports of kids being bullied and patients refused care just because of who they are. Our focus has to be on our community and how we can support them. Movement towards change can be slow, but it’s far more lasting than the media cycle our state leaders are playing to.

We’re making an intentional investment in grassroots organizing and electing pro-equality candidates this year. Help us gear up for 2023 by participating in organizing events across the state. 

The Continued Legal Fight

The injunction pausing CPS investigations into loving families with transgender children is still awaiting review at the Texas Supreme Court. At stake is whether or not the injunction will continue throughout the course of the original lawsuit against the Governor’s directive to the Department of Family Protective Services (DFPS).

The injunction is crucial to avoiding irreparable harm to Texas transgender kids and those who love them through baseless investigations. Equality Texas, TENT, and the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund have filed an amicus, or “friend of the court” brief elevating stories about how the Governor’s directive has already harmed families across the state. Sharing these stories with the public creates windows into the lives of families that could be any family, just trying to do what’s best for their children.

Making Change

Storytelling and visibility make change. Transgender Day of Visibility (TDOV) was last week and our community showed up for each other in a big way. Hundreds of Texans gathered on the Capitol steps at a rally last Saturday hosted by the All in for Equality Coalition made up of Equality Texas, the Texas Freedom Network, the Transgender Education Network of Texas (TENT), ACLU of Texas and Lambda Legal.

Over 200 community members and healthcare professionals showed up at a recent protest against UT Southwestern’s decision to limit medically necessary, life-saving care for transgender youth.

These events weren’t in isolation. Texans truly embodied this TDOV as a day of joy, recognition, and power all across a state that seeks to silence us.

We will continue to gather, make noise, and fight back against the rhetoric, the policies, and the culture of fear created by some politicians in an effort to hold onto power.

Become a volunteer today. Only by doing the work can we change the hearts and minds of our state.

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Statement on the historic confirmation of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson

April 7, 2022 by Debi Jackson

Statement from Ricardo Martinez, CEO Equality Texas

Equality Texas celebrates the historic, bi-partisan confirmation of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson to the U.S. Supreme Court, the first Black woman to serve in the 233-year history of the Court. The Harvard Law School graduate and long time federal judge was confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court today by a 53–47 vote. 

In addition to being the first Black woman, Judge Jackson will be the first former public defender to serve on the nation’s highest Court—bringing a valuable perspective on the true impact of the Court’s precedents. Judge Jackson is a brilliant legal mind with impressive qualifications and sound judicial temperament. We celebrate her historic nomination and believe the U.S. Supreme Court will be better with her voice on the highest Court.

At a time when the rights of LGBTQ+ people are at stake across the country, it’s more important than ever to have a #JusticeForAll on the Supreme Court. Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is that person.

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AG Paxton’s ongoing disinformation and more

March 28, 2022 by Debi Jackson

It’s hard to read the news these days without learning about yet another attack on the LGBTQ+ community. Between AG Paxton’s ongoing cruelty and disinformation, the anti-LGBTQ+ legislation coming out of other states, and the constant attacks on inclusive schools, it can be overwhelming.

But there are so many bright lights cutting through the darkness. Community, allies, and even folks who are just learning about our issues are fighting back on every front.

Lambda Legal and ACLU of Texas Continue the Fight Against Directive to DFPS

It’s been roughly a month since Governor Abbott directed the Department of Family Protective Services (DFPS) to investigate loving families of transgender kids in accordance with AG Paxton’s non-binding opinion. On March 11 a Judge granted a temporary injunction halting Child Protective Services (CPS) investigations into families for providing best-practice life-saving healthcare for their kids. AG Paxton immediately appealed the injunction, injecting fear and confusion about whether investigations would continue.

On Monday, March 21, an appeals court reaffirmed the temporary injunction in order to prevent “irreparable harm” as the original case makes its way through the courts. This is Paxton’s second lost appeal regarding the injunction and last Wednesday, March 25, Paxton again baselessly appealed the injunction decision to the Texas Supreme Court.

To be clear — what AG Paxton is so relentlessly fighting against in these appeals is — a temporary pause in the investigations that terrorize children and families despite two rulings that continuing the investigations could cause “irreparable harm.” Jane Doe’s case will still have to go through the courts for them to decide whether or not the state went beyond its powers in directing DFPS to investigate families for providing necessary affirming healthcare for their kids.

Meanwhile, Paxton has moved forward on two more baseless actions deliberately misinterpreting state law to create fear and confusion for LGBTQ+ Texans. Last Thursday, he moved forward with an investigation of two pharmaceutical companies that manufacture medication involved in best-practice care for transgender kids for “deceptive trade practices.” He also recently accused Austin ISD of breaking Texas law by hosting “Pride Week,” a week full of activities to celebrate LGBTQIA+ students, staff, and families and to highlight the district’s commitment to creating a safe, supportive and inclusive environment.

Neither of these actions have the weight of law behind them. They are simply an extension of AG Paxton’s determined crusade to abuse the power of his office in pursuit of demonizing the LGBTQ+ community for political points.

These moves are cruel political theater that create a climate of fear and put kids in danger. Even though these actions don’t have the weight of law, confusion and disinformation are tools of oppression and cause immense harm. It’s crystal clear that AG Paxton’s actions are not rooted in the safety or well-being of the kids involved.

We’ll keep applying pressure to DFPS to remind them of their sacred duty to care for the children of Texas. Stay up to date on the latest opportunities to get involved here.

“Teach the Truth” Campaign Launch

This week we joined the Texas Freedom Network’s coalition to “Teach the Truth” to combat education censorship. Every child deserves an accurate, honest education regardless of their race, class, genders, or background. Through this statewide coalition, we’re providing the resources so folks can fight back against book and curriculum censorship in their communities.

Join our upcoming webinar on the censorship of LGBTQ+ identities on April 7 and hear directly from the student activists who are fighting back.

Combating Anti-LGBTQ+ Attacks from All Angles

Transgender Day of Visibility, a day dedicated to celebrating transgender people and raising awareness, is next Thursday March 31. To have a day committed to joy and accomplishment in the midst of the onslaught of attacks is so important and powerful. Please support folks at these community events.

Modeling Political Courage 

This week two Republican Governors vetoed anti-trans sports bans in Utah and Indiana, showing political courage to support what is right despite extreme pressure. The Governor of Utah’s words were especially resonant as he wrote, “Rarely has so much fear and anger been directed at so few. I don’t understand what they are going through or why they feel the way they do. But I want them to live.”

The work we collectively do is so important and has the capacity to truly change hearts and minds all over the country. Thank you for being a part of it.

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Actions of our state leaders have created a chilling effect across the state

February 25, 2022 by Debi Jackson

It’s been a rough week in Texas for transgender kids, adults and those of us who love them. Earlier this week Attorney General Ken Paxton and Governor Greg Abbott threatened to insert themselves into the doctor’s office of every Texas transgender youth — to deny them access to life-saving care – simply for political gain.

Fortunately, their reckless actions and opinions are not legally binding and cannot change the law. Loving your kid for who they are and providing medically necessary, life-saving healthcare is parenting at its best and cannot be considered child abuse.

This scare tactic from Texas leaders sent ripples all over the country where folks took to social media with an incredible outpouring of love and support for transgender youth. It filled our hearts and our cups to see everyone pull together and fight back against the dangerous disinformation spread by the Governor and AG Paxton.

While not changing law, the actions of our state leaders have created a chilling effect across the state. In Texas, everyone is charged with being a mandatory reporter, or someone who faces penalties if they suspect a child is being abused but do not make a report. This is especially true for teachers, doctors, counselors, and social workers who all receive training on their duty to report abuse. The confusion over the AG’s opinion and Governor’s letter has led to a state of fear, both for families terrified of false reports about their parenting and for allied mandatory reports who fear consequences if they don’t comply. 

 

If you or someone you know is faced with a false report to CPS contact us at info@equalitytexas.org and reach out to Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Texas for legal help.

 

That’s why it’s so important to remember that the AG and Governor’s actions have not changed current law, and that the best practice standards of care endorsed by every major medical association are not “abuse.” That means that there is nothing for mandatory reporters to report. 

Help us spread the word and take the power back. Join us Monday, February 28 for a webinar explaining recent events and hear from legal voices, social workers, and teachers about what you can do to help. Register here to attend.

You can also educate your friends and family with the points below, and send a message to rachel.hill@equalitytexas.org if you have a group who would like a briefing on what’s happened.

 

Facts about the AG’s recent opinion:

Donate now to help us educate the public. There is immense power in knowledge and the more people we can reach, the more we can reduce the harm these state leaders have caused.

 

School Censorship

As state leaders are striking fear into the hearts of everyday Texans, grassroots vigilante groups are continuing their crusade of censorship in schools. Over the past two weeks we’ve received 10 new reports of school districts and public libraries taking books off shelves in cities like McKinney, Eanes, and Coppell.

Students are fighting back. They know that a public school education is meant to help them prepare for their futures by teaching critical thinking and that some politicians cannot make a whole range of ideals illegal just because they don’t like them.

Follow the amazing work being done by students across the state. In Katy, students are distributing books, voter registration information, and mental health resources during the Katy ISD FReadom week. In Leander, students have created a banned book club, working their way through the books that have disappeared, turning the attempts at censorship into robust educational discussion. These stories inspire us every day with their courage, determination, and Texas grit in the face of those who want to silence them.

To report an incident occurring near you please email info@equalitytexas.org

 

Elections

The Texas primary election day is this Tuesday, March 1. Make a plan to vote and encourage your friends. We have the power to hold our leaders accountable, especially when they use our community as political pawns.

Make sure they know that scare tactics against transgender kids is not acceptable and not politically beneficial.

We’re launching an unprecedented effort to TurnOUT for Texas and get out the vote for 2022. Donate now to support regional GOTV efforts across the state so that anti-trans fear mongering has real consequences for our elected officials.

Thank you to everyone who has spoken out against the recent statements from the AG and the Governor. This was just the latest cruel escalation in a long series of attacks on transgender youth in Texas and we are amazed at the resilience and resourcefulness of our community in Texas and beyond. As a community we know that the love that binds us is incredibly powerful and we saw it in full force this week.

Together, we will ensure that all kids in Texas, including transgender youth, are able to live full and healthy lives without fear.

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Take action against Abbott’s dangerous direction to DFPS

February 23, 2022 by Debi Jackson

On February 18th, in the middle of early voting for the Texas primary elections, Attorney General Ken Paxton released a non-binding opinion grossly mischaracterizing medically necessary, best-practice healthcare for transgender children as child abuse. Shortly after, Governor Abbott sent a letter to the Department of Family Protective Services (DFPS) directing them to enforce Paxton’s opinion.

We stand with every major, credible medical association in supporting age-appropriate, best-practice standards of healthcare for transgender youth and adults. Misconstruing the law and amplifying junk science to attack innocent children and their parents is cruel, beneath contempt, and could have a devastating effect on transgender youth and their families. Read our full statement here. 

What to know: 

 

What you can do: 

Remember, the Governor’s letter is non-binding. DFPS is not required to change any policies around transgender youth. Take action and send them a message now urging them to do the right thing and follow the guidance of every major medical association.

If you’re directly affected as a parent, a trans young person, or a mandatory reporter (teachers, social workers, counselors) join equality groups tonight at 6pm CST, February 23, for an overview of the situation, your rights, and how to move forward. Register here to attend.

Donate now to join the movement against this cruel abuse of power. No one should have to experience the fear of potentially losing their child just for loving them as who they are.

All children, including transgender kids deserve parents who love them unconditionally and will fight to follow evidence-based, live-saving healthcare. Remember that Equality Texas and our partner organizations around the state are fighting for you every day. If you attack one Texan, you attack all Texans.

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For Immediate Release: Statement on AG Paxton Opinion about Trans Healthcare

February 22, 2022 by Debi Jackson

Contact: Angela Hale | angela.hale@equalitytexas.org 512-289-2995


February 22, 2022 – AUSTIN, TEXAS – Equality Texas, the largest statewide organization solely dedicated to securing full equality for LGBTQ+ Texans, today released the following statement:

All children deserve to grow up healthy and learn to take care of their bodies in a way that helps them live full, happy lives. For transgender kids, this might include gender-affirming care that has been endorsed by pediatricians and proven to help kids’ mental health and future wellbeing. Our position at Equality Texas has always been and will continue to be that we stand with every major, credible medical association in supporting age-appropriate, best-practice standards of healthcare for transgender youth and adults because that care is evidence-based, rooted in science and, quite literally, life-saving. We urge all Texans to be skeptical about campaign stunts disguised as legal opinions from a corrupt politician who has built their career spreading disinformation about marginalized communities and who has no expertise in healthcare. That’s exactly why we must leave health care decisions to the actual experts–the pediatricians and other providers who are working with families to keep kids healthy–instead of letting politicians interfere.

Since the beginning of the 2021 legislative session, anti-LGBTQ+ politicians, including the governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general have sought to lay the groundwork to turn Texans against their LGBTQ+ neighbors through an onslaught of harmful legislation, inflammatory rhetoric and discredited legal opinions. They have found it politically advantageous to spread lies about and villainize LGBTQ+ people, especially transgender people, grossly mischaracterizing our lives to paint us as scary caricatures that need to be feared, all in service of securing their re-elections. 

Disinformation, being spread about transgender people and their healthcare, highlights, exaggerates and imagines a non-existent problem as an urgent moral emergency that must be tackled right now – days before the primary election. It’s predictable and sad that during a crowded primary, politicians will further sow civil discord by amplifying lies about trans people to score political points. Misconstruing the law and amplifying junk science to attack innocent children and their parents is cruel, beneath contempt, and could have a devastating effect on transgender youth and their families. 

 

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Equality Texas is the largest statewide organization working to secure full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer Texans through political action, education, community organizing, and collaboration.  

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For Immediate Release: Equality Texas Mourns the Loss of Cypress Ramos

February 18, 2022 by Debi Jackson

Contact: Angela Hale | angela.hale@equalitytexas.org

 

Austin, Texas – February 18, 2022 – Today, Equality Texas, the largest statewide organization solely dedicated to securing full equality for LGBTQ+ Texans mourns the loss of Cypress Ramos, tragically murdered in Lubbock, Texas.

The Texas LGBTQ+ community lost Cypress Ramos on Saturday, February 12 in Lubbock Texas. Cypress Ramos, 21, was, according to a friend, “a friend, a sister, a daughter. Cypress was always smiling. She was so tiny so it felt like my arms wrapped around her 3 times. She was so drama free — never in any anyone else’s problems. She just loved everyone.” 

A bright light like Cypress deserved to shine bright for much longer than she did. Cypress died from blunt force trauma. Her suspect was quickly identified and has been arrested and faces a murder charge. 

Ricardo Martinez (he/him), Chief Executive Officer of Equality Texas said, “The loss of Texans like Cypress is part of a heartbreaking epidemic of anti-transgender violence, particularly against transgender Black and Brown women  In 2021 at least 47 transgender or gender non-conforming people were killed by violence — 5 of whom were fellow Texans. That’s 47 people who deserve to be remembered and honored for far more than being part of a statistic — who lived with extraordinary courage, authenticity and love, just like Cypress.   

Rachel Hill (she/her), Government Affairs Director, Equality Texas said, “2021 was the most tragic year on record for murders of transgender women, just like 2020 was was year before. We have to break the cycle in 2022. It’s up to us to fight for a world where transgender Texans are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve. 

While politicians manufacture “emergencies” about library books Equality Texas is committed to working with those in power to enact real solutions to improve safety for our transgender community including policies that increase resources for transgender Texans and reduce barriers to employment, healthcare, public services, and shelter.”   

A candlelight vigil honoring Cypress will be held at Tim Cole Memorial Park on February 19, 2022 at 7PM.

 

 

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Equality Texas is the largest statewide organization working to secure full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer Texans through political action, education, community organizing, and collaboration.

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Anti-transgender sports ban, HB 25, goes into effect today

January 18, 2022 by Debi Jackson

HB 25, the anti-transgender sports ban, goes into effect today. After a grueling string of anti-LGBTQ+ legislative sessions last year, HB 25 was the only anti-LGBTQ+ bill out of 76 to pass. 

HB 25 requires k-12 Texas students to play sports according to their gender assigned at birth, effectively banning transgender kids from the friendship, education, teamwork, and health benefits of playing sports with their friends. 

All Texans, regardless of what we look like, where we come from, or how we express our genders, want to be treated with dignity and respect. This is especially true for kids, who have already had their lives turned upside down with the ongoing pandemic. The last thing kids need right now is yet another policy that marks them as different or dangerous. 

Politicians exploited our differences all through 2021, particularly in schools, whether it was by dictating how Black kids can wear their hair, micromanaging about which lives and experiences teachers can teach, or excluding transgender kids from normal school activities. Kids just want to live their lives without having to worry about lawmakers stoking fear against them for political gain.

What does a post-HB 25 Texas look like?

There are still a lot of unknowns. The bill itself doesn’t have any guidance for how schools should start excluding transgender students from sports. Instead, the language directs UIL to create a process for schools, which has not yet happened and could take months. The most UIL has done to date is to update their nondiscrimination policy to include language from the bill without information on implementation or enforcement.

Whatever process UIL creates will have to grapple with how to navigate private healthcare documents, how to work with kids who are not yet “out” to their friends, and how to handle adults who accuse children of misrepresenting their gender. HB 25 also states that whatever rules UIL develops must “ensure compliance with state and federal law regarding the confidentiality of student medical information.”

Without enforcement guidance from UIL, schools have no uniform way to implement the law. If you’re interested in keeping up with the latest news regarding the sports ban, sign up for updates here. If you or someone you know encounters an issue with sports access, please let us know by filling out this form. In the meantime we’ve put together a high level resource to help navigate these situations. Please contact us at info@equalitytexas.org if you’re interested in receiving a copy.

What we do know is that the 10-month debate on this bill was incredibly harmful for the mental and emotional health of Texas transgender kids. Any time kids are debated as a threat or a problem to be solved sends the message that they are less than. 

Trans and intersex Texans deserve better

This is a hard day for Texas trans, nonbinary, and intersex kids. That’s why we’re flooding social media today with messages of hope and support. Print out this image and fill it in with a message of love. Take a picture and post with the hashtags #transkidsbelong and #letkidsplay.

Trans youth: know that you are loved. Try your best not to internalize the messages of HB 25. We see how bright your authenticity shines and how brave you’ve been and continue to be. And we will keep fighting alongside you on this journey. 

P.S. We’re working to help the LGBTQ+ community TurnOUT for Texas elections so we never have a legislative session as bad as 2021. Equality Texas has always existed in a challenging political climate and we will never stop fighting to protect your rights despite setbacks. This year,  we’re launching a multi-year investment in electoral work focused on key legislative districts so we never have a legislative session quite like 2021. A $5 donation could make a big difference.

 

 

 

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Equality Texas’ 3rd Annual Gala — Lights, Camera, Action: Reimagined

January 14, 2022 by Debi Jackson
Dear friends,

The health and safety of my fellow Equality Texans has been weighing on my heart
since the postponement of Equality Texas’ 3rd Annual Gala in October. It is with
sadness that I share now: Lights, Camera, Action!” will no longer be held in-
person on January 29, 2022.
I didn’t feel well over the holidays. Even with two negative test results, I was still
unwilling to potentially expose family and loved ones. That calculus is also extended
to my Equality Texas extended family. Y’all are just as near and dear to my heart
and I am unwilling to potentially expose any of you, no matter how many
precautions we’re able to take. The City of Austin reached stage 5 COVID-19
community risk last Thursday. Transmission rates are high, and hospitals are once
again being overwhelmed with patients.

When we began planning this event, we anticipated greater resolution to the
COVID-19 crisis, and sought to provide a long-overdue, unforgettable, in-person
celebration. But the current risks of gathering hundreds of people in one room far
outweigh the benefits of us moving forward with our annual event in-person. This is
a gut-wrenching decision – one we knew we may have to make but hoped we
wouldn’t have to.

For two years, we’ve been forced to pivot and reformat what mission-critical
fundraising events of all sizes look like. Our plan for reimagining this event, in part,
will honor the generosity and activism of Equality Texans in 2021 through digital
channels. We’re calling this digital celebration Gala Weeks – two weeks of thanks
to you, our generous sponsors, our 2021 Advocacy Stars, and partner organizations,
all who courageously supported Equality Texas during the toughest legislative year
for LGBTQ+ Texans.

This event funds essential programs that engage, educate, and mobilize Texans in
support of LGBTQ+ equality. In addition to our visibility and presence at the Texas
Capitol, this looks like: the rapid response mobilization of tens of thousands of
Equality Texans when emergent situations that threaten LGBTQ+ equality arise
across Texas, Equality Education webinars, in-depth leadership development for
Equality Fellows (70+ to date), training for corporate leadership and employee
resource groups, and the launch of Turn OUT for Texas, our new statewide voter
engagement and education program. Your support of these programs helps ensure
that Equality Texas can put up another valiant fight at the Capitol in 2023.
There are still opportunities to support this event
and help us reach our goal of raising $250,000.

We are excited to offer reimagined amenities for sponsors, including recognition on
our social media during Gala Weeks, on our website, and in the 2021 Annual Report.
Additional benefits include invitations to sponsor events (when the environment
allows), and membership in the Equality Texas Capitol Club. Visit
www.equalitytexas.org/gala-sponsor to sign up.

An exciting, new way to support this year’s annual gala is a silent auction!
In lieu of a memorable event in Austin, bid on a staycation or vacation package to
celebrate your advocacy this year! The auction will open on Saturday, February 5,
2022, and will close the following Saturday. Mark your calendars or follow us on
social media where we will feature auction items and packages.

Thank you for your continued commitment in support of LGBTQ+ equality in Texas,
and I hope you’re able to stay healthy in the coming weeks.

In community,

Sarah Lynn Chavez
Development Director
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Happy Paw-lidays!

December 22, 2021 by Debi Jackson

Happy Paw-lidays from our pack to yours!

Love,

Equality Texas

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