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Queer Muslims in Houston set to open LGBTQ+ inclusive mosque

“I identify as Queer & it took me a while to actually, you know accept that for a very long time-I knew all my life that I was gay”

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Erum Rani (Photo courtesy of Erum Rani)

HOUSTON – Erum Rani was born in Karachi, Pakistan but raised in “The Bayou City,” as Houston is also known as, and occasionally fittingly referred to as as “Baghdad on the Bayou” because it is home to ten winding waterways that flow through the surrounding area and a sizeable population of Muslims born in the U.S. or who immigrated over the years from the Middle East and Asia.

However, once segment of the Muslim population was lacking a place for welcoming worship and the 34-year-old Rani set out to change that.

Rani told KRIV, Fox 26 News in a recent interview that she and other LGBTQ+ Muslims will be opening the first affirming mosque in Houston in just a few weeks. Rani has been working on the project for a few years.

“Pride month is a great month for us in the LGBTQ community to show our pride, our color and who we truly are,” Rani said. Rani also told Fox 26 that she knows from personal experience such space is needed.

“I don’t want any community, South Asian or Muslim whatever it is, I want them to embrace their children and I want them to embrace who they are,” Rani said. “I have personally been judged very harshly, I go to the mosque I’ve been to.”

Rani, a local business owner, said that for now she will be using her storefront in West Houston.

“We feel like sometimes we go to our own mosque, and we are not really welcomed,” she told Fox 26. “I want to be able to have them come in and feel welcomed and make sure they are welcomed and safe.”

In an interview last May of 2021, Rani told Fox 26:

However, as Rani explains, there were tensions when she started trying to come to terms with her sexual identity, as her father was a well-known member of Houston’s Islamic community. 

“I identify as Queer (she/they) and it took me a while to actually, you know accept that pronoun side for a very long time,” they said. “I knew all my life that I was gay, but I just I never really accepted it for myself because my dad was so political in the Islamic Society [of Greater Houston] so it was a very big thing for me to come out and I wasn’t able to, so it was very hard for me.” 

At times though, even Rani’s own religious identity came into question. 

“I had my ups and downs with the community and had my questions about the community and I felt like that people like me do not have a place to go to feel like they are themselves,” they said. “And whenever I step into a masjid (mosque) especially, I don’t feel like I am myself and I’m not ashamed of who I am or going to the mosque, but I just want to be able to be comfortable.” 

Currently, Rani said they have a clear understanding of their Islamic identity but because various members of the Muslim community have negative opinions of homosexuals, it can raise some eyebrows when others find out about her sexuality.

“I get mixed feelings or reactions to be very honest,” Rani explained. “Some I have that are like ‘oh wow’ or are like ‘what?!’ like it’s very very mixed reactions – I just can’t tell you just one reaction but I would say number one is judgmental.” 

The negative responses do not phase Rani though. 

“I don’t respond actually,” they said. “It’s like ‘whatever, do you,’ like, to me I don’t care anymore I’m not going to sit here and like lecture you. I don’t deal with all that stuff and gonna waste my energy on it.” 

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Court issues 2nd injunction, blocks Texas investigating more Trans families

The injunction bars DFPS from investigating these families based solely on allegations that they are providing gender affirming care

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Travis County District Courthouse, Austin Texas (Photo Credit: County of Travis, Texas government)

AUSTIN – The Travis County District Court entered a second injunction on Friday against the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) and Commissioner Masters, barring them from implementing the agency’s rule expanding the definition of child abuse to presumptively treat the provision of gender affirming care as child abuse.

Friday’s action blocks Texas DFPS from investigating against two more families, Mirabel Voe and her son Antonio, and Wanda Roe and her son Tommy.

The injunction bars DFPS from implementing the rule by investigating these families based solely on allegations that they are providing gender affirming care to their adolescents, or taking any action in open investigations other than to close them so long as DFPS can do so without making further contact with the families. The Court is still considering the request for additional injunctive relief to protect the other clients, the Briggle family and Texas PFLAG members with transgender children.

Today’s ruling came in the lawsuit, PFLAG v. Abbott, filed by Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union Jon L. Stryker and Slobodan Randjelović LGBTQ & HIV Project, the ACLU Women’s Rights Project, the ACLU of Texas, and the law firm of Baker Botts LLP. The legal organizations issued the following statement:

“We are gratified that the Court reiterated that the DFPS rule is unlawful and changed the status quo for Texas transgender youth and their families. The Court recognized yet again that being subjected to an unlawful and unwarranted investigation causes irreparable harm for these families who are doing nothing more than caring for and affirming their children and seeking the best course of care for them in consultation with their medical providers. We are confident that the Court will continue to recognize those harms as it considers the injunction we have requested for PFLAG families, including the Briggles.

“An hour after the District Court’s ruling, Texas has already filed an appeal, seeking permission to continue their persecution of transgender youth and their families. But every court to consider the actions of these Texas officials has recognized both their unlawfulness and the irreparable harms they cause to these families. We will not stop fighting until all Texas families are protected.

Brian K. Bond, Executive Director of PFLAG National also noted in a statement released late Friday afternoon:

“For nearly 50 years, LGBTQ+ people and their families have turned to PFLAG for support in the face of government harm, and have found community and safety within our organization. We are heartened that the Court recognized that Governor Abbott’s order is harmful, and hopeful that the Court will find similarly for PFLAG families. We remain committed to protecting the rights of trans kids and their families to make personal decisions for themselves, and to access gender-affirming care.”

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Texas AG barred from intervening in Trans youth medical case lawsuit

“The Texas Supreme Court said the AG’s opinion is not binding & that the AG should not be getting involved in these situations”

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Children’s Medical Center of Dallas (CMCD/Facebook)

DALLAS – On Friday, after a more than two hour hearing which at times was combative, Dallas county judge Melissa Bellan ruled that Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton had no standing to intervene in a lawsuit between a physician who provides Trans specific healthcare and Children’s Medical Center of Dallas.

Dr. Ximena Lopez, who led Children’s GENECIS programme for trans and non-binary youth, had sued the hospital after its decision to stop providing vital gender-affirming treatments – such as puberty blockers and hormone therapy – to new patients. 

The Dallas Morning News reported that in May, Children’s agreed to allow Lopez to resume this care through April 2023 while the case is being litigated. Judge Bellan’s decision will allow Dr. Lopez to continue seeing patients under this agreement.

According to court records Paxton’s office intervened based on Paxton’s highly controversial opinion that these types of Trans youth treatments can constitute child abuse. The Republican Attorney General released a formal attorney general opinion concluding that performing certain “sex-change” procedures on children, and prescribing puberty-blockers to them, is “child abuse” under Texas law last February.

At the time of the opinion, Walter Bouman, PhD, MD, President, World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) told the Blade in an emailed statement:

“Targeting trans youth, their parents, and their health care providers for political gain is unconscionable. We strongly denounce this alarmist and misguided opinion which could obstruct access to medically necessary care. It is yet another example of the profound misunderstanding of the conditions under which transgender people live, and a profound lack of compassion for the need for responsible medical care that helps trans people, including trans youth, to thrive and contribute to society.”

In arguments presented by Dr. Lopez on Friday, Charla Aldous, one of Lopez’s lawyers said that Paxton’s office was targeting trans care for “purely political reasons.”

“We are pleased that Judge Bellan saw through these shenanigans and struck the intervention. It is mind boggling that Paxton continues to fight against the best interest of children,” Aldous said in a statement.

“That decision goes against child welfare laws as we interpret them,” Assistant Attorney General Johnathan Stone told Judge Bellan. “We’re defending the state’s ability to enforce the law.”

According to the The Dallas Morning News, Stone pointed to a nonbinding opinion Paxton issued in February that came to the conclusion that these treatments are considered child abuse under current law. The state, under Gov. Greg Abbott’s blessing, has cited this opinion to investigate families with transgender children.

Last month, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) can continue to investigate families in the state who provide medically necessary care for their Trans children, excluding the parties in the litigation that brought the matter forward in a lawsuit filed in March.

The justices however, questioned why DFPS had acted in the first case.

In its decision, the court emphasized that neither Attorney General Paxton nor Governor Abbott has the power or authority to direct DFPS to investigate the provision of medically necessary lifesaving health care for transgender youth as child abuse. But the court limited the order blocking all investigations to the specific plaintiffs who filed suit.

Judge Bellan cited this ruling repeatedly when questioning the state as to why they thought they could intervene in this case.

“That opinion is not legally binding. So that shoots your argument out of the water,” Bellan told Stone. “The Texas Supreme Court said the AG’s opinion is not binding, it is not law and that the AG should not be getting involved in these situations.”

Additional reporting from The Dallas Morning News.

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Court issues restraining order; Stops Texas investigation of PFLAG families

“This is now the sixth time in recent months a Texas court has ruled in favor of transgender youth and their loving, supportive families”

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District Court for Travis County, Austin (Photo credit: County of Travis, Texas)

AUSTIN — The Travis County District Court granted a temporary restraining order on Friday to block the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) from investigating PFLAG families who are supporting their transgender children with medically necessary health care, including the three plaintiff families in the case.

The American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal, and the ACLU of Texas, along with Texas-based law firm Baker Botts LLP filed the lawsuit in state court on behalf of PFLAG National. The court’s ruling stops the DFPS from investigating the parents named in the lawsuit. Under the terms of the temporary restraining order, families need only provide notice of their PFLAG membership if ever contacted by DFPS.

“That families will be protected from invasive, unnecessary, and unnerving investigations by DFPS simply for helping their transgender children thrive and be themselves is a very good thing,” said Brian K. Bond Executive Director of PFLAG National. “However, let’s be clear: These investigations into loving and affirming families shouldn’t be happening in the first place. PFLAG National and our chapters throughout Texas remain committed to ensuring every transgender Texan is safe, empowered, and can thrive.”

The lawsuit names Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who issued a February directive stating that health care that is medically necessary for treating gender dysphoria should be considered a form of child abuse. The suit also names Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) Commissioner Jaime Masters and DFPS as defendants.

Doctors and medical organizations have been providing gender-affirming care to transgender youth for decades. However, it has increasingly become a target of attacks from state lawmakers.

“This is now the sixth time in recent months a Texas court has ruled in favor of transgender youth and their loving, supportive families.” said Adri Pérez, policy and advocacy strategist at the ACLU of Texas. “The court and Texans agree: weaponizing the child-welfare system against loving families causes irreparable harm. It is senseless for governor-appointed Jamie Masters and DFPS to keep pushing forward these baseless investigations, and for Ken Paxton to keep wasting state resources by filing reckless appeals in his campaign to target transgender Texans.”

“We are relieved that—at least for now—the threat of a child abuse investigation is no longer hanging over the heads of PFLAG families here in Texas,” said Paul D. Castillo, Lambda Legal senior counsel. “When we learned that DFPS had restarted investigations, when the Texas Supreme Court made it clear neither the governor nor the attorney general had the authority to compel such investigations, we knew we needed to move quickly to shore up support and protection for those parents who are working to provide love, support, and safety for their kids. It is unconscionable that DFPS persists in causing more trauma and harm for these youth and these families. We appreciate that the judge saw this activity clearly for what it was, and moved so rapidly to halt it.”

In an earlier lawsuit brought by the ACLU, Lambda Legal, ACLU of Texas, and Baker Botts, the Texas Supreme Court upheld part of an appeals court order preventing DFPS from investigating parents who work with medical professionals to provide their adolescent transgender children with medically necessary health care. That case, Doe v. Abbott, is still pending.

While the Texas Supreme Court emphasized that neither Attorney General Ken Paxton nor Governor Abbott have the power or authority to direct DFPS to investigate the provision of essential and often lifesaving medical care for transgender youth as child abuse, the court limited the order blocking all investigations to the specific plaintiffs who filed suit.

PFLAG provides confidential peer support, education, and advocacy to LGBTQ+ people, their parents and families, and allies. With a nationwide network of hundreds of chapters — including 17 in Texas — PFLAG National works with families, schools, and communities to build safety and support for transgender youth.

The lawsuit references a suicide attempt and suicidal thoughts in the LGBTQIA+ community. If you or someone you know requires help and support, please contact The Trevor Lifeline (866) 488-7386 or TransLifeline (877) 565-8860. 

In addition, any person contacted by DFPS or who knows of a family that has been contacted by DFPS is encouraged to contact the Lambda Legal Help Desk.

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