Editorial: Idaho and Texas are using trans kids as political pawns. That’s a crummy way to win votes.

Adri Perez speaks at a rally in support of trans children.
Adri Perez, ACLU of Texas Policy and Advocacy Strategist, speaks at a rally in support of transgender children and their families in Austin, Texas.
(Jay Janner / Austin American-Statesman via Associated Press)

It’s an election year, which means it’s time for naked political ploys to woo voters. Republicans in Idaho and Texas have plumbed new depths to pander to conservative voters by trying to stop medical treatment that helps transitioning transgender minors even if parents, doctors and therapists concur with the need for those treatments.

A bill that overwhelmingly passed in the Idaho House last week is the most extreme example of similar pieces of legislation in other states. It would make it a felony for parents to consent or medical professionals to provide what’s called gender-affirming care to transgender minors. It would be illegal for parents to take their children out of state with the intention of obtaining this treatment.

It’s despicable that politicians would threaten medical care that has been vetted and peer-reviewed by mainstream medical organizations, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, and pretend they are acting to protect the health of young people. They ignore current medical and psychological thinking and are making families and transgender teens feel singled out for hatred. These measures might well be struck down in court, but in the meantime, they make it hard for transgender youth to receive or continue receiving the medical care they need. According to a 2017 report by the Williams Institute at UCLA, less than 1% of teenagers identify as transgender and many of those don’t get medical treatment related to their sexual identity.


Conservative politicians are pandering to their base and hurting kids with a Texas order about transgender healthcare for minors and Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

Feb. 26, 2022

Such moves by Republican politicians are also hypocritical. When it comes to masks and COVID-19 vaccine mandates for kids, those politicians say those are matters for families to decide. But they seem fine with stripping parents of their right to help their children with a complicated medical decision that, unlike COVID-19, has no effect on the health or safety of others.

On a medical level, failure to get treatment early on could make it tougher for people to transition as adults. For example, puberty blockers are often given to transgender teens and preteens to delay the onset of secondary sex characteristics. With puberty blockers and hormone therapy, a transgender male might not develop breasts and not feel the need for a mastectomy later in life.

Although the evidence so far is that gender-affirming treatments appear generally safe and, in the case of puberty blockers, reversible, there also can be long-term health effects. According to the Mayo Clinic, that can include slower bone growth and lower bone density as well as future infertility issues. But we also know some of the effects of not receiving proper care: Transgender teens have dramatically higher rates of suicide attempts and self-injury, according to papers by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Use of puberty blockers is linked to a reduced risk of suicidal thoughts.

Deciding whether to seek gender-affirming care for teens should be done in consultation with doctors and and psychologists, who require certain criteria to be met before they will provide treatments for transitioning kids. The last thing parents need is politicians telling them that supporting their children is wrong or threatening to take their kids away.

Yet that’s the approach Texas officials are taking. State Atty. Gen. Ken Paxton issued an opinion in February that says gender-affirming treatments and surgical procedures for transgender children could be considered a form of child abuse; Gov. Greg Abbott quickly followed up by directing social workers to investigate parents who helped their transgender children receive gender-affirming treatments and even encouraging neighbors to spy on one another.


Some might feel discomfited when transgender customers strip down in a clothing-optional spa. But always feeling comfortable isn’t a civil right.

July 6, 2021

A Texas judge issued a temporary injunction Friday blocking investigations into families who obtain care for their children. But the effects of these outrageous investigations are already being felt; Texas Children’s Hospital, the largest children’s hospital in the nation, has decided to pause all gender-affirming treatment for minors.

A federal judge also temporarily halted an Arkansas law last year that banned treatments for transgender minors; that ruling is being appealed. But more antitransgender laws are already in the works. Bills with various restrictions are pending in other states including Alabama and Louisiana. All of them are discriminatory and seek to insert law into a decision that should be left to families and doctors.

Singling out a vulnerable group — and attempting to restrict its members’ movements out of state, as Idaho would, or encouraging McCarthy-era spying and tattling on neighbors, as Texas’s governor wants — is a contemptible way to score points with voters. Even if all of these efforts eventually lose in court, it could still take years to resolve and still do untold damage to today’s transgender teenagers and their families.