I was terrified to tell my conservative, Christian parents that their grandchild is transgender, but I underestimated them. This year, they’ve spent their time making phone calls to their state legislators to oppose anti-transgender bills — bills promoted by the party they have belonged to all of their lives.
The danger of these bills — such as SB 1311, SB 1646, and SB 29 — is not hypothetical in our family. We know that the constant political targeting of transgender children can increase the risk of suicide. We also know my family could be forced move to a safer state if Texas lawmakers continue to use my child to score political points in their next primary election.
My daughter is nine. She was six when she told us that she is a girl, but says she’s known who she is “since always.” The American Academy of Pediatrics says most children have a stable sense of their gender identity by age four. For most of us, the way society labels us matches the way we feel inside. But for transgender people, who have existed across cultures and throughout time, that’s not the case, and this disconnect can be acute. Our child manifested tic behaviors and panic attacks, which significantly reduced after her father and I listened, learned, and allowed her to socially transition.
For a child like mine, “social transition” means she wears clothes and uses a name that match her identity as a girl, and lives her daily life as a girl. There is no medical treatment for a pre-pubescent transgender child, only love and acceptance. Any politician telling you otherwise is lying in order to make you afraid. Once a transgender child begins puberty, medical care is conservative and focused primarily on a reversible medication to delay the onset of the changes that would be devastating for a child like mine. This care is supported by every major medical association, and these medicines have been used safely to treat precocious puberty in children for over three decades.
These lawmakers claimed their bills would protect transgender children, but they would do the opposite. They want to force trans people to wait until 18 — beyond the irreversible effects of puberty — to receive any affirming medical care, against all expert advice. That care is proven to save lives. Their bills would have assured that some transgender kids won’t make it to adulthood.
The lawmakers who refuse these realities nevertheless have developed a creepy focus on our kids. They spend so much time thinking about kids’ private parts. They want to legislate our children out of existence, but not before they examine every square inch of them.
Maybe I should bring my daughter to the Capitol with me, so she can prove her own validity. But I don’t want grown men posting photos of her on social media, or laughing at her, as I have seen them do to other trans kids who testify. I don’t want them telling her that SB 1646 would have classified me and her dad as child abusers who deserve to have her taken away. So whenever I come home from another day of knocking on legislators’ doors, she asks me: “Do we have to have to move? Is it my fault?”
When they’re not trying to insert themselves into our family decisions, they’re trying to push our kids out of acceptance by their peers. SB 29 would ban trans youth from school sports — pushing our kids even further to the margins and telling the world that they’re something to be afraid of. If it passes — even with its six-year expiration date — my daughter will be barred from school sports until at least her sophomore year of high school. It’ll be too late to catch up, and the message that she’s too different to belong will already be clear to her peers. Imagine the cloud of anxiety this hangs over her head. The same legislators who feign deep concern for our kids want to make their schools treat them like they’re dangerous and wrong.
These bills give bullies state-sanctioned instructions to further exclude, harass, and abuse trans youth. Even if these bills do not pass, this “debate” has made Texas less safe for my child.
In the end, we are simply asking Texas lawmakers to live up to their own values. Gov. Abbott recently tweeted: “Texans, not gov’t should decide their best health practices.” Does that include us? Or do we alone deserve government overreach so invasive that it’s in my child’s pants?
Karen Krajcer is a native Houstonian and the mother of a transgender child in Austin, Texas. She is a former high school teacher and a certified Child Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), sworn to speak up for abused and neglected children in Texas.