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LGBTQ Youth web resource gone after Texas GOP candidate complained

Removal of the LGBTQ youth resource webpage appeared to be strictly political the Houston Chronicle reported

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Anti-LGBTQ Republican Don Huffines (Screenshot via Twitter)

AUSTIN – A late August video tweet from a wealthy Dallas-based real estate development company executive and conservative Republican gubernatorial challenger, blamed fellow Republican incumbent Texas Governor Greg Abbott for endorsing an LGBTQ+ agenda, because of the existence of a state online resource webpage for LGBTQ youth.

Within hours it was pulled down by the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services, (DFPS) the agency responsible for the page.

In an article published Tuesday, the Houston Chronicle reported that Don Huffines claimed tax dollars were being used to “advocate for transgender ideology.” Huffines also went on to say that DFPS was publishing “disturbing information about our youth.”

“They’re talking about helping empower and celebrate lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, ally, non-heterosexual behavior. I mean really? This is Texas. These are not Texas values. These are not Republican Party values, but these are obviously Greg Abbott’s values,” 

A message on the website states that the previous content is now under review.

According to the Chronicle, the website for the Texas Youth Connection, a division of Family and Protective Services that steers young people to various resources, including education, housing and those on its LGBTQ page as they prepare for life after foster care. It was replaced by a message that states, “The Texas Youth Connection website has been temporarily disabled for a comprehensive review of its content. This is being done to ensure that its information, resources, and referrals are current.”

LGBTQ+ activists and advocates are furious. Among the resources on the page for LGBTQ+ youth were critical information including for housing and information for suicide prevention and crisis assistance.

GenderCool Youth Leader, Trans rights activist and University of Houston student Landon Richie told the Blade Tuesday;

“This is deplorable. To Governor Abbott, LGBTQ+ youth are nothing more than pawns on a political chessboard. Despite his cries of protection and fairness in justification of this session’s unprecedented attacks on LGBTQ+ — especially trans — youth, it has never truly been about any of those things; it has always been about his power.

Now more than ever, LGBTQ+ youth deserve safety, protection, support, and affirmation from the state — this year alone, the Trevor Project received more than 10,800 crisis contacts from LGBTQ young people in Texas looking for support, as a result of this legislative session. LGBTQ+ youth deserve better than to be treated like they are as easily discardable as a webpage,” Richie said.

Shannon Minter, the Legal Director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights reacted telling the Blade in an emailed statement:

“Helping LGBTQ youth and their families prevent suicide is not a partisan issue, and any elected official who seeks to make it one has lost any sense of shame. This action by Governor Abbott is appalling and will needlessly harm vulnerable children and families who urgently need support.”

Removal of the page appeared to be strictly political the Chronicle reported.

Patrick Crimmins, the department spokesman, told the Chronicle that the review “is still ongoing” but declined to answer questions seeking more detail about why the website was removed or whether it had anything to do with Huffines.

But Family and Protective Services communications obtained through a public records request show that agency employees discussed removing the “Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation” page in response to Huffines’ tweet, shortly before taking it offline,” the paper wrote.

More telling was the events leading the page’s removal said the paper:

Thirteen minutes after Huffines’ video went up, media relations director Marissa Gonzales emailed a link to Crimmins, the agency’s communications director, under the subject line “Don Huffines video accusing Gov/DFPS of pushing liberal transgender agenda.”

FYI. This is starting to blow up on Twitter,” Gonzales wrote.

Crimmins then queried Darrell Azar, DFPS’ web and creative services director, about who oversees the page. “Darrell — please note we may need to take that page down, or somehow revise content,” he wrote.

Late Tuesday afternoon, the Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ youth weighed in on the Chronicle’s reporting in an emailed statement to the Blade.

LGBTQ youth are overrepresented in the child welfare system — and those who have been in foster care report significantly higher rates of attempting suicide. It is unconscionable that the Texas state government would actively remove vital suicide prevention resources from its website for the sole purpose of appeasing a rival politician. Mental health and suicide prevention are nonpartisan,” said Casey Pick, Senior Fellow for Advocacy and Government Affairs. “This story sends a terrible message to LGBTQ youth in Texas and will only contribute to the internalization of stigma and shame. We should be expanding access to support services for this group, not erasing what resources LGBTQ youth have to reach out for help.” 

The Chronicle reported that the deleted webpage also included links to the Texas chapters of PFLAG, a nationwide LGBTQ organization; a “national youth talk line” to discuss gender and sexual identity and various other issues; and LGBTQ legal services.

Huffines said the page also linked to a website operated by the Human Rights Campaign, a politically active LGBTQ advocacy group that he called “the Planned Parenthood of LGBT issues.”

Data on Texas:

  • Between January 1 and August 30, 2021, The Trevor Project received more than 10,800 crisis contacts (calls, texts, and chats) from LGBTQ young people in Texas looking for support. More than 3,900 of those crisis contacts (36%) came from transgender or nonbinary youth.
  • Crisis contacts from LGBTQ young people in Texas seeking support have grown over 150% when compared to the same time period in 2020.
  • While this volume of crisis contacts can not be attributed to any one factor (or bill), a qualitative analysis of the crisis contacts found that:
    • Transgender and nonbinary youth in Texas have directly stated that they are feeling stressed, using self-harm, and considering suicide due to anti-LGBTQ laws being debated in their state.
    • Some transgender and nonbinary youth have expressed fear over losing access to sports that provide important acceptance in their lives.

Additional Research: 

  • The Trevor Project estimates that more than 1.8 million LGBTQ youth (13-24) seriously consider suicide each year in the U.S. — and at least one attempts suicide every 45 seconds.
  • The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that 42% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, with more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth having seriously considered. 
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Texas

Texas Gov. introduces ‘Parental Bill of Rights’ amid LGBTQ+ book banning

The bill would amend the state’s constitution to “reinforce parents are the primary decision makers in all matters involving their children”

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Campaign reelection event photo from Texas Governor Greg Abbott's Personal Twitter Feed

LEWISVILLE, Tx. – Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott introduced plans to amend the state constitution to give parents primary power over their child’s education amid the governor’s effort to censor LGBTQ authors in schools. 

Abbott introduced the proposal – deemed the “Parental Bill of Rights” – Thursday at a campaign stop in Lewisville, Texas. The governor is running for a third term in the state’s 2022 election. 

The bill would amend the state’s constitution to “reinforce that parents are the primary decision makers in all matters involving their children,” according to a press release.

“The fact is no government program can or should replace the role that parents play in their children’s lives,” he said. “That’s why as Governor, I have fought to defend the rights of parents, whether it comes to education or health care.”

Among other things, the bill would expand parents’ access to course curriculum and materials available in schools, Abbott said. 

“When it comes to the classroom, Texas parents should have every right to know what their children are being taught,” he said. 

He added: “We will ensure that if a parent has a concern about curriculum or policies, that those concerns are heard quickly and respectfully.”

The announcement comes as Republican lawmakers in Texas, including Abbott, continue to target content they perceive as “inappropriate” in schools, much of which includes books by or about LGBTQ people. 

In November, the governor directed the Texas Education Agency to develop standards preventing “pornography” and other “obscene content in Texas public schools,” citing two memoirs about LGBTQ characters: “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe and “In the Dream House” by Carmen Maria Machado. Both books deal with some mature topics but are recommended for high school-aged kids. 

Soon after the order, he instructed the agency to investigate “the availability of pornography” in the state’s public schools system. 

Last year, prominent civil rights organizations denounced Abbott’s efforts to censor LGBTQ authors. 

“Gov. Abbott’s letters labeling coming-of-age stories as pornography simply because they involve LGBTQ people are attempts to create educational environments rife with censorship of ideas and topics that students deserve to have access to,” said Avatara Smith-Carrington, staff attorney at Lambda Legal. “Students need materials and information created with them in mind, in which they can see their own identities and experiences reflected.”

At the event, Abbott also touted his efforts to ban the teaching of Critical Race Theory (CRT) – a college-level examination of the intersection of race and law that has become a hot button issue for Republicans – in schools, highlighting two bills he signed last year. “Now Texas has the toughest anti-CRT protections in the nation,” he said. 

“But, there is more we must do to preserve the rights of parents and give our children the future they deserve,” he added, referring to his Parental Bill of Rights.

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Texas

Trans people ‘have been left out’ of Texas abortion ban discussion

“I didn’t want to be a pregnant man in Texas,” he said. “I didn’t know if I could even get somebody to look at me or even take me seriously”

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Austin, Texas, resident Samson Winsor via Facebook

AUSTIN – Texas’ ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, the most extreme anti-abortion law in the country, has been in effect since September, getting extensive media coverage. But trans and nonbinary people are often left out of the United State’s discourse on abortion rights, meaning the consequences are “even more significant.”

The Texas Tribune reports that Samson Winsor, a trans man who moved to Austin from Utah in search of a substantial trans community without the cost of living in bigger cities, is afraid to live in the state because of the extreme abortion ban. 

He tells the news organization that his menstrual period was late after having sex with someone, which terrified him. He realized how limited his options would be if he were pregnant. 

He was overcome with relief when he learned he wasn’t pregnant. 

“I didn’t want to be a pregnant man in Texas,” Winsor told the Tribune. “It was terrifying for me because I realized, by the time I could even confirm I was pregnant, I didn’t know if I could even get somebody to look at me or even take me seriously walking in the door.”

The law – which the Supreme Court ruled could be challenged in court but declined to block – empowers private citizens to sue doctors and others who “aid or abet” abortions after six weeks, before most people know they are pregnant, in Texas. 

The law only refers to pregnant women, but the news organiztion notes that the law also affects trans and nonbinary people, like Winsor – who added that he would be afraid to let friends get him out of the state if he were pregnant because they could legally liable for aiding an abortion. 

“While restrictions on abortion primarily harm women, they also compound the challenges that trans men and nonbinary people already face in accessing gynecological and reproductive health care. Being a trans man or a nonbinary individual who needs an abortion is often a nightmare even in jurisdictions that support reproductive freedom. In places like Texas, which are making abortions inaccessible to anyone, it is terrifying,” Shannon Minter the Legal Director for National Center for Lesbian Rights told the Blade Thursday.

“My heart goes out to the trans and nonbinary people who are living in fear, praying they never need this care, and that if they do, they can find a way out of the state. And for those who know they can’t afford to travel or pay for out-of-state care, there is no hope,” Minter added.

Trans people “have been left out of the conversation, which means that the impact for them is even more significant,” according to Anna Rupani, executive director of Fund Texas Choice, a nonprofit that financially assists people in accessing abortions. 

The abortion ban can hold extra weight for trans people, who already face disproportionate discrimination, as they also have to face the stigma of being a non-female presenting person who is pregnant. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists , they also have to deal with unique risks and complications because of hormone therapy. However, many trans men and nonbinary people carry pregnancies to term. 

Contrary to popular belief, trans people receive hundreds of abortions a year. According to a study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, several hundred transgender and nonbinary people in the U.S. received abortions in 2017. In addition, Texas is home to the second-largest population of transgender people, with more than 125,000 identifying as trans, in the U.S., according to a 2016 study from the Williams Institute. 

“People already hate that I exist and people like me exist,” Winsor told the Tribune. “They refuse to believe that we’re men, but we’re still having kids, we’re still getting pregnant, and we still have to access abortions. What’s that going to look like, when the thing they say doesn’t exist looks them right in the face and says, ‘I’m a pregnant man’?”
Texas has been at the forefront of what has been a record year for anti-trans legislation across the country. According to Equality Texas, Texas has considered at least 50 anti-trans bills this year. Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill that bans trans K-12 kids from playing sports in accordance with their gender identity.

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Texas

Legal rights groups to Texas GOP: LGBTQ+ book ban unlawful

“Any such efforts raise serious First Amendment concerns, and is, in many ways, an attack on our informed democracy”

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Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott (Blade file screenshot)

WASHINGTON – Two prominent national civil rights legal groups Tuesday denounced Texas politicians’ efforts to force schools to begin pulling books from their classrooms and libraries shelves under the guise of state law.

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Lambda Legal called Governor Greg Abbott’s efforts to censor LGBTQ authors and State Rep. Matt Krause’s book ban request unlawful. Both of these attempts at censorship come on the heels of a divisive legislative session that enacted bills censoring critical and fact-based classroom discussions on racism and sexism and restricting transgender students from participating in school sports.

On October 25, 2021, Rep. Krause, using his role as Chair of the General Investigations Committee in the State House of Representatives, sent a letter to the Texas Education Agency and the superintendents of unnamed school districts demanding that they identify the location of books corresponding with a list of 850 titles targeted by Krause.

He also asked districts to identify other books and materials that address human sexuality, HIV, AIDS and any material that “might make students feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress” because of their race or sex. 

In the wake of Krause’s letter, on November 8, 2021, Governor Abbott sent a letter directing the Texas Education Agency, the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, and the State Board of Education to immediately develop statewide standards to restrict access to certain content in public schools, but highlighted as examples books by LGBTQ authors that tell the stories and explore the identities of LGBTQ people.

Two days later, Governor Abbott sent another letter directing the Texas Education Agency to investigate school content for potential criminal activity, further suggesting that he is targeting literature that merely discusses sexuality and/or gender. 

These letters are part of a continuing extremist campaign to intimidate educators into selective self-censorship on issues critical to young people’s learning and development.

“Governor Abbott’s and Rep. Krause’s political stunts are part of a larger effort, nationwide, to remove information and materials from public schools that politicians disfavor. Any such efforts raise serious First Amendment concerns, and is, in many ways, an attack on our informed democracy,” stated Avatara Smith-Carrington, staff attorney at Lambda Legal. “Krause’s investigation and Gov. Abbott’s letters labeling coming-of-age stories as pornography simply because they involve LGBTQ people are attempts to create educational environments rife with censorship of ideas and topics that students deserve to have access to. Students need materials and information created with them in mind, in which they can see their own identities and experiences reflected. We will not stand by and watch politicians play games with the education and wellbeing of our children.”

“Rogue politicians must be called in check and right now, Rep. Krause is well outside the bounds of our Constitution. For decades, our courts—including the U.S. Supreme Court—have held that the First Amendment protects the right to information and ideas and library books are at the core of this protection,” stated David Hinojosa, director of the Educational Opportunities Project at the Lawyers’ Committee. “We are not going to stand idly by as Krause, Governor Abbott or anybody else cast these veiled threats to force schools to begin pulling important books on racism, sexism, genderism, among other topics, solely because they disagree with those ideas.”

The groups are calling on educators, families and students to unite and stand against efforts to ban legitimate books.

Should persons have questions or concerns with their local schools or districts pulling books and materials out of their libraries, please contact the Lawyers’ Committee at [email protected] or Lambda Legal’s Help Desk.

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