GLAAD Urges Texas Governor Greg Abbott to Veto Latest Attack on Transgender Kids 

By |
October 18, 2021


On Sunday, after months of debating and public testimony across four arduous legislative sessions, Texas lawmakers passed a law that shuts transgender youth out of school sports. HB 25, which now goes to Governor Greg Abbott’s desk for his signature, limits schoolchildren from kindergarten through 12th Grade to participating in sports according to the sex on their birth certificates, effectively banning trans youth from athletics. 

The bill’s passage falls during National Bullying Prevention Month, founded to raise awareness about and to prevent aggressive, dangerous behavior against school-aged children. Research shows LGBTQ children are twice as likely to be bullied, leading to increased risk for violence, depression and suicidal ideation. Thursday (October 21st) is GLAAD Spirit Day, when millions of people around the world will wear purple or go purple online in a unified stand against bullying and to show support for LGBTQ youth. 

The law also makes Texas the 10th state to ban transgender youth from school sports. Nine of those discriminatory sports bans passed in 2021: Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Mississippi, Montana, Tennessee, South Dakota, and West Virginia joined Idaho, which had passed the first such ban in 2020. 

In most of these states, lawmakers couldn’t name a single case of a cisgender athlete losing a competition, scholarship, or place on a team to a trans athlete. The push to ban trans children from participating is part of a coordinated, longstanding attack on LGBTQ rights organized by anti-LGBTQ groups, who make false claims and spread misinformation to prop up these bills. 

GLAAD joined Texas LGBTQ advocates in condemning the passage of the law and in urging Gov. Abbott to stop the harmful and unfair targeting of children and teens in his state.

“This bill is state-sponsored harassment and targeting of transgender children, who deserve to learn, grow and have fun with their friends,” said Mary Emily O’Hara, Rapid Response Manager at GLAAD. “Governor Abbott should listen to the experts here and veto this bill; every major medical association supports transgender children playing sports as their authentic selves, and hundreds of athletes at all levels support trans kids playing sports. Trans kids deserve our love, support and protection. Texas lawmakers are risking trans kids’ very lives and their states’ future, and they’re failing their kids today.”

Advocates on the ground expressed concern for the safety of transgender youth in Texas, after the Trevor Project reported a 150% increase in crisis calls from kids and teens in the state during the period of peak news coverage of the state’s many proposed anti-trans bills. At least 76 anti-LGBTQ bills were proposed in Texas this year—more than in any other state—an a disturbing 50 of those laws targeting transgender children and teens specifically. From January through August 2021, The Trevor Project reported more than 10,800 crisis contacts from LGBTQ young people in Texas looking for support. More than 3,900 of those crisis contacts (36%) came from transgender or nonbinary youth.

“Our hearts are broken seeing HB 25 pass in the state of Texas. Instead of focusing on legislation that would genuinely be of help to the people of Texas we saw our state leaders bully, belittle, and treat our most vulnerable Texans with cruelty and indifference,” said Emmett Schelling, Executive Director at Transgender Education Network of Texas (TENT.) “We will continue to fight for and stand with trans children and their families. We know that we stand on the right side of history in affirming, supporting, and loving our kids and no law passed by out of touch lawmakers can take that away.”

Some of those youth testified at the capitol building in Austin several times, missing school and traveling across the state with their families in desperate attempts to keep the legislature from taking away a right every child deserves: to play with their friends. At the most recent public hearing before the House on October 6, dozens of Texans spent over 8 hours pleading with lawmakers to vote no on the bill—including several children.

“I have come to Austin lots of times this year and missed school because I had to fight these bills,” said Maya, a 10-year-old aspiring gymnast from Houston, during the hearing. “I have missed the second and third day of school, picture day, and will probably miss more. I love doing gymnastics...but because of that rule, I couldn’t do it.”

8-year-old Sunny was also a regular at the hearings this year, bravely standing at the mic in a room full of adults to defend her rights. ​​During the most recent Oct. 6 hearing, Sunny joked that she had testified so many times in Austin that she was “kinda famous now.”

“Why are you attacking me? I'm really great,” Sunny told Texas representatives at the House hearing. “I have lots of friends, I love to read and I love playing sports like soccer and gymnastics. I shouldn't be here right now, I should be in school. Let me play with girls because I am a girl. Vote no on this bill.”

An 8-year-old girl with blond hair stands before a room full of Texas lawmakers

Parents gave especially emotional testimony, with some breaking down into tears after a year of constant state-sponsored attacks on their kids. Suzanne Summers, parent of a trans child, told legislators at the House hearing that the year had been “horrible and traumatic” and that her family was planning to leave the state and move to New Mexico because “our transgender daughter is under immense stress.” Summers added, “I want my daughter to grow up in a safe environment, I want my daughter to live.”

Molly Carnes, who described herself as a Christian mom, also raised concerns for the safety of her child and expressed frustration with the lawmakers themselves: “If you feel supporting these bills makes you faithful, I ask you to reconsider. When your actions inspire thoughts of suicide in others it’s not an act in good faith....we parents have been testifying for months, we try to activate your compassion with stories and data, but you refuse to provide yourself with the free education given to you.”

Transgender youth face alarmingly high rates of suicidal ideation, and that rate has increased over the past year as the isolation of the pandemic pairs with state-sponsored attacks on their access to healthcare and sports. So far this year, over 130 anti-transgender bills have been filed among more than 280 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced in 33 states, according to Human Rights Campaign. Amid this crisis, 94% of LGBTQ youth nationwide reported that recent politics negatively impacted their mental health, according to the Trevor Project. The organization also found that more than half (52%) of transgender and nonbinary youth seriously considered suicide in the past year, and 1 in 5 attempted suicide.

Ricardo Martinez, Executive Director at Equality Texas, called 2021 “the most harmful legislative year on record for LGBTQ+ Texans.”

“Throughout four traumatizing legislative sessions, we’ve seen increased requests for help from families facing anti-LGBTQ+ threats as a result of this hostile climate,” Martinez said. “The ‘debate’ over this anti-transgender bill is already exacerbating intolerance, fueling discrimination, and solidifying Texas’ reputation as the leading state for violence against trans people.”

Five transgender Texans are among the 40 trans people killed by violence this year. Most are Black and Brown trans women, including 21-year-old Kier Lapri Kartier in Arlington, Texas, last month.