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Texas House approves anti-Trans youth sports bill 76-54, heads to Senate

Under HB25 all Trans student athletes in grades K-12 will be prohibited from competing on sports teams aligned with their gender identity

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GenderCool Project leader and Trans activist Landon Richie (Photo courtesy of Landon Richie)

AUSTIN – Texas House Republicans were able to push through the anti-Trans youth sports measure Thursday evening after hours of emotional and at times rancorous debate, passing the bill in a 76-54 vote along party lines.

Under the provisions of Texas House Bill 25, all Trans student athletes in grades K-12 will be prohibited from competing on sports teams aligned with their gender identity. The bill will now head to the Senate, where it is expected to pass.

The Texas Tribune reported that the University Interscholastic League, which governs school sports in Texas, already requires that an athlete’s gender be determined by the sex listed on their birth certificate. Republican Rep. Valoree Swanson, R-Spring, the author of HB25 has said the bill would simply “codify” existing UIL rules.

However, UIL recognizes any legally modified birth certificates. That policy could accommodate someone who may have had their birth certificate changed to match their gender identity, which can sometimes be an arduous process.

HB 25 would not allow recognition of these legally modified birth certificates unless changes were made because of a clerical error. It’s not clear though how it will be determined if a birth certificate has been legally modified or not. According to the UIL, the process for checking student birth certificates is left up to schools and districts, not the UIL the Tribune reported.

“To say that tonight’s passage of HB 25 is devastating is an understatement. For the past 10 grueling, exhausting, and deeply traumatic months, trans youth have been forced to debate their very existence — only to be met by the deaf ears and averted eyes of our state’s leaders,” Landon Richie, a GenderCool Project leader, University of Houston student and Transactivist told the Blade after the vote.

“Make no mistake: this bill will not only have detrimental impacts on trans youth, who already suffer immense levels of harassment and bullying in schools, but also on cisgender youth who don’t conform to Texas’s idea of “male” or “female.” To trans kids everywhere: you belong, you are loved, you are valued, you are deserving of dignity, respect, care, and the ability to live freely as your true and authentic selves, no matter where you are. We will never stop fighting for trans lives and a future where trans kids are unequivocally and unwaveringly celebrated for who they are,” Richie said.

“The cruelty of this bill is breathtaking, and the legislators who are pushing it forward are doing irreparable harm to our state. Texas is a place where people value freedom and respect for diversity. This bill is a betrayal of those cherished values, and future generations will look back on this moment in disbelief that elected officials supported such an absurd and hateful measure,” Shannon Minter, Legal Director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights told the Blade. “The families of these kids deserve better, and the burden is now on the rest of us to do everything in our power to stop this dangerous bill now,” he added.

During the debate on the measure, State Representative James Talarico, (D-Round Rock), a former middle school teacher, began his remarks by apologizing to the trans kids and families who have gone to the Capitol time and time again this year. He tells the chamber he speaks now as a legislator, and educator, and a Christian.

He quoted Republican Rep. Valoree Swanson, R-Spring, the author of HB25 who said “if one girl wins a game, it’s worth it.” He says he has a different moral yardstick. “If one trans kid dies for a trophy, this bill is grotesque.”

He ended speaking to his “fellow believers” in the chamber. “The worst part in these hearings have been in hearing the Bible used against trans kids to support these bills. Even tonight, “God’s law” was used to present an amendment.” He then quoted the first 2 lines of the Bible, where God is referred to with two different Hebrew words, one masculine/one feminine. “God is nonbinary.” He then prevented an interruption in the chamber and continued telling trans kids that he loves them.

Fellow Democratic State Representative Jessica González, (D- Dallas County), Vice-Chair of the Texas House LGBTQ Caucus asked the chamber how many trans Texas kids they are willing to hurt. She reminded her fellow representatives that cisgender women and girls will also be hurt by the bill. She shared a personal story about being outed in high school by a friend, having her locker, home, and car vandalized and losing all of her friends. “Kids are cruel.”

González told lawmakers that her brother encouraged her to try out for soccer, and she was bullied with comments like “shouldn’t she be trying out for the boys’ team.” She went from feeling a bit accepted to being an outsider again. She then reflected on carrying those feelings into adulthood and said that this bill will have long-term affects on trans kids. She asked legislators to listen to the stories of the trans kids who have bravely testified, saying kids will contemplate suicide or complete suicide.

Representative Diego Bernal, (D-San Antonio) told the chamber that some Representatives can’t wrap their heads around knowing that there is no problem but there is *real* harm to trans kids, and for whatever reason, that’s not enough it seems to stop moving these bills.

He said that he has heard “if they already have mental health issues and suicide ideation, this can’t make it worse” and “if the debate is harming them, let’s just vote.” The he breaks down the Texas statute’s definition of bullying, telling lawmakers, “The bullying statute doesn’t have an intent requirement. It doesn’t matter if you don’t mean to cause them harm. We are bullying these students. Know that by law…our own definitions and our own words, we are. And we don’t have to.”

“Texas lawmakers voted today to deliberately discriminate against transgender children. Excluding transgender students from participating in sports with their peers violates the Constitution and puts already vulnerable youth at serious risk of mental and emotional harm,” Adri Perez, policy and advocacy strategist at the ACLU of Texas said in a statement to the Blade.

“There is no evidence that transgender kids pose any threat. It is indefensible that legislators would force transgender youth and their families to travel to Austin to defend their own humanity, then blatantly ignore hours of testimony about the real damage this bill causes. Trans kids and their families deserve our love and support — they’ve been fighting this legislation for months. Texans will hold lawmakers accountable for their cruelty,” Perez added.

The statewide LGBTQ+ advocacy group Equality Texas in a tweet after the vote said; ” We will not stop fighting to protect transgender children.” Then added “We’ll continue to educate lawmakers — replacing misinformation with real stories — and demand the statewide and federal nondiscrimination protections we need to prevent further harms.”

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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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Texas Governor orders criminal probe of ‘pornographic books’ in schools

Abbott’s order to investigate comes after he had tasked state education officials to develop statewide standards preventing “pornography”

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Former President Trump and Governor Greg Abbott on Jun 30, 2021 (Photo Credit: Twitter account of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott)

AUSTIN – The Texas Education Agency was instructed in a letter Wednesday by Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott to investigate “the availability of pornography” in the state’s public schools system and determine if criminal activity had occurred as a result.

The Governor’s order to investigate the alleged criminal activity comes two days after he had tasked state education officials to develop statewide standards preventing “pornography” and “other obscene content in Texas public schools,” citing two memoirs about LGBTQ+ characters which include graphic images and descriptions of sex the Texas Tribune reported.

The Keller Independent School District had removed a book — “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe, after multiple parents complained about its availability to students in one of that district’s high schools.

The book, which is classified in the Comics & Graphic Novels > LGBT genre is written as an autobiographical look at author Maia Kobabe, who uses e/em/eir pronouns. The 2020 ALA Alex Award Winner has frank illustrations of oral sex and other sexual content, along with discussions related to pronouns, acceptance and hormone-blocking drugs.

Abbott in his directive also took aim at another LGBTQ+ themed book, “In the Dream House” by Carmen Maria Machado, a searing account of the author’s years in an abusive same-sex relationship. that book was awarded the 2021 Folio Prize and the 2020 Lambda Literary Award for LGBTQ Nonfiction. This book was recently removed from classrooms in the Leander Independent School District.

The Texas Tribune also reported that Abbott’s directive to the Texas Education Agency, Texas State Library and Archives Commission and State Board of Education comes days after the governor told another entity — the Texas Association of School Boards — to determine the extent to which “pornography or other inappropriate content” exists in public schools across the state and to remove it if found. But the association told Abbott it had no regulatory authority over school districts and suggested the governor direct his inquiry to TEA or SBOE.

The Texas Education Agency does not have certified law enforcement officers nor does it have the ability to investigate criminal matters. Under Texas law, the state’s Department of Public Safety’s Texas Ranger Division would normally be tasked to investigate potential criminal activities.

But, according to the Tribune; “However, state statute gives broad authority to the Texas education commissioner, who oversees the TEA. According to the state’s education code,”the agency shall conduct hearings involving state school law” at the direction and under the supervision of the commissioner, which could be interpreted by the TEA as the vehicle to use for investigating any criminal activity.”

 

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Austin HS students spread positivity after hate messages were found

“What was in the parking lot, what was on school property… the hate speak is not what represents Anderson”

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L.C. Anderson High School (Photo Credit: Austin Independent School District

AUSTIN — Students at Anderson High School in Austin, Texas, are rallying together to spread positivity after anti-Semitic, racist and homophobic graffiti was found on school grounds in late October. 

On Saturday, more than 100 volunteers painted picnic tables, parking spots and buildings with positive messages of unity in response to the late-October incident, reports KVUE

“What was in the parking lot, what was on school property… the hate speak is not what represents Anderson. This positivity and this community spirit today is truly what represents our school,” student Ford McCracken told the news station. 

The students also raised funds for supplies and to support an anti-Semitism organization, according to KVUE.

Two weeks ago, on October 22, anti-Semitic, racist, and homophobic graffiti was found in several school parking spots. It was a part of several similar incidents across the Austin area. 

Since the graffiti was found at Anderson High School, a banner with anti-Semitic speech was displayed over an Austin highway. Then, on October 31, a synagogue off Shoal Creek Boulevard was set on fire. There have been no arrests in either incident, according to KVUE. 

The Austin American-Statesman reports that residents of Hays County, a part of the Austin-Round Rock metropolitan area, have found anti-Semitic letters in the mail. 

In response, the Austin City Council condemned the acts and passed an anti-hate resolution, according to KVUE. The council also instructed the city manager to find ways to improve how the city responds to such hate incidents.

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