Trans students speak out against Gov. Abbott’s order to investigate gender affirming health care as child abuse

Joelle DiPaolo, News Reporter

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the March 8, 2022 flipbook.

The night Kai Bovik and their friends heard about Gov. Greg Abbott’s directive attacking trans children, they got together to support each other.

“It made (us) feel very powerless,” the sociology and math junior said. “As someone who grew up as a trans person in Texas, I could see that reflected onto me, and I could see what would happen because of this, which was really painful.” 

On Feb. 22, Abbott directed the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate parents allowing their children to receive gender-affirming health care, calling it abusive. The directive also mandates professionals such as teachers and doctors to report these cases. 

Bovik said they started hormone treatment near their 16th birthday, which drastically changed their life.

“The year before I started hormones is probably the worst year, mental-health wise, that I’ve ever lived through,” Bovik said. “I know that I probably wouldn’t be here or would be in a much worse place today if I hadn’t had those opportunities.”

Maze Criss, health promotion and behavioral science senior, said they were scared when they heard about the directive because of its direct impact on children. 

“This was really the first time that I could see clearly … a law that would have applied to me if I had figured myself out when I was younger,” Criss said. 

On Feb. 24, faculty members from the LGBTQ+ studies program and other committees sent out an email in support of transgender children and their families. LGBTQ+ studies director Lisa Moore said the statement was written in order to present data supporting trans-affirming health care. 

“Because of the lie that it somehow constitutes child abuse to offer children appropriate medical treatment, we felt like we needed to counter that with some data-driven truths,” Moore said. 

Criss said the University’s gender care team was helpful and that the University was a safe space for them, but they wish there was more of a University response to Abbott’s directive. 

“It’s really heart-wrenching to see one of the best institutions, and one that’s so heavily focused on research, not speak out when someone powerful says something that flies completely in the face of piles of research,” Criss said. 

On March 1, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the directive. On March 2, district judge Amy Clark Meachum ruled that the state of Texas cannot continue these investigations until a hearing on March 11 determines the validity of Abbott’s directive. 

Rachel, a biology senior who asked to remain anonymous said taking a stance against this legislation would show how few people share these opinions.

“One of the best things that can be done (is) … making it clear that the silent majority … doesn’t have these opinions, or they don’t support grinding transgender children down into the dirt,” Rachel said. “People with a real stake in these things aren’t standing for it.”

She said she wants trans children to know they deserve to grow up exploring their identities.

“It’s wrong, what’s been done to them and how they’ve been made into these political opponents,” Rachel said. “They deserve to flourish as individuals, and we as adults will do everything in our power to make that happen.”