Texans, UT students protest anti-trans legislation at Texas Capitol

Madeline Duncan, Senior News Reporter

Texans gathered at the Texas Capitol on Monday to protest bills that would prohibit physicians from providing gender-affirming healthcare to transgender youth. 

If passed, House Bill 1686 and Senate Bill 14 would ban physicians and health care providers from performing surgeries or prescribing hormones or puberty blockers to anyone under the age of 18 in Texas. Physicians who violate these proposed bills would have their license to practice revoked. The rally, organized by ACLU Texas, Equality Texas, Texas Freedom Network, the Human Rights Campaign, Lambda Legal and the Transgender Education Network of Texas attracted roughly 200 activists and Austinites to the Capitol’s outdoor rotunda.

Sofia Sepulveda, community engagement manager at Equality Texas, spoke at the rally to protest the anti-trans legislation and other bills that could allow for discrimination against LGBTQ+ people. 

“I am a trans Latina woman and freaking proud of it,” Sepulveda said at the rally. “Today I am pissed. … Every southern state is trying to take away our rights — the right of trans kids to play sports, the right to our life-saving healthcare, our right to exist.”

Sepulveda said pursuing anti-trans legislation focuses on the wrong problems Texas children face. 

“They are bullying trans kids and their families because they are loved,” Sepulveda said. “We are here to show them that we are here and that we have always been here, and they will not erase us.”

One counter protester interrupted the speakers, shouting that gender-affirming healthcare is child abuse. The rally attendees surrounded the protester with trans flags and made a pathway for him to exit the rotunda while chanting “no place for hate.”

Jonathan Van Ness, Queer Eye star and Austinite, spoke at the rally, praising the crowd’s peaceful response to the counter protester. 

“We have a right to raise our kids, we have a right to freedom, we have a right to self-expression,” Van Ness said. “Those rights will not be taken away by the legislature. Not now, not ever.” 

Van Ness said the bills demonstrate a misunderstanding of what gender-affirming healthcare is among some lawmakers. 

“Gender-affirming care can be letting your kids wear the clothes they want to wear,” Van Ness said. “It’s not always pills, but you know what it is? It’s a private medical decision.” 

Psychology freshman Nidhi Chanchlani said she came to the rally to find more ways to support transgender people. 

“Considering the current political climate across the country and rising anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-trans legislation, I think it’s important to show up where you can,” Chanchlani said. “It was really inspiring, and hearing everyone who was invited speak was a very educational experience.”

Government senior Jacob Turner said he feels it is important to speak out against the anti-transgender bills in the Texas legislature. 

“I think it’s really important to be here so we can support (trans people),” Turner said. “Speaking as someone who doesn’t have that experience, it must be pretty scary to be a transgender person in Texas right now.”