Sherry Sylvester

The Politics Behind Gender Modification

The Texas Tribune began its coverage of the 88th Session this year with a news report screaming that “LGBTQ Texans Ready for Legislative Session as GOP lawmakers target them in dozens of bills.”

The Tribune warns that many LGBTQ people say they are leaving Texas because of the GOP “assault” on their rights.

If LGBTQ people are leaving Texas, they are the only ones. Every data source from the Census Bureau to U-Haul repeatedly shows that Texas is the state most people around the country are moving to, not from.

Newsweek reports that Texas has the second highest LGBTQ population in America, although other sources have radically different numbers. But no source shows an exodus of gay people from the state.

There’s also not much evidence of LGBTQ targeting in bills filed so far in the legislature session—at least no L, G and B. Several legislators have written bills that would prohibit the parents of children suffering from gender dysphoria from allowing their children to have irreversible surgeries including castrations and mastectomies or giving them puberty blockers or cross-sex hormones. Those children might grow up to be “T” people, although the data indicates the most of them won’t.

The division between the LG&B and the so-called “trans” agenda (T) has long been debated in the gay rights movement—and is starting to gain traction. Many believe that the two groups have conflicting missions. Gay people want to be accepted for the men and women that they are. Trans advocates don’t believe that sex is binary and are demanding acknowledgement for being someone other than who they are.

This poses a huge problem for a group like Equality Texas, the source of the alarm in the Texas Tribune’s “LGBTQ attack” story. Equality Texas says it is the largest advocacy group for LGBTQ in Texas and it must rally its troops, but if you look at its bill tracker, their agenda is all about the “T.”

Looking at the bills they are fighting, here’s what we must assume that they support:

  • No restrictions on sex change surgery for children, which they call “lifesaving” and a “best [medical] practice.” No restrictions on cross-sex hormones and puberty blocking drugs.
  • All health care providers should be forced to provide sex change surgery to children whether they believe in them or not.
  • Insurance companies should be required to pay for sex change operations for children.
  • There should be no restrictions on classroom instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • There should be no restrictions on classroom instruction using nudity and descriptions of sex.
  • Men should be allowed to play in women’s sports in Texas colleges and universities.

Equality Texas describes commonsense policies on these issues as a “threat” to the LGBTQ community.

The use of the term “lifesaving” to describe sex change operations and puberty blockers is deceptive. Researchers have known for some time that gender dysphoria does not put teens at greater risk of suicide than teens suffering from many other mental health risk factors including depression and anorexia. We also know that cross-sex hormones and puberty blockers don’t save lives but actually adversely affects mental health, which can increase suicide risk. So does sex change therapy, which has been repeatedly shown to not be as effective as psychotherapy in treating gender dysphoria in children and adolescents.

The bottom line is that the Equality Texas’ bill tracker makes it clear that it opposes all efforts to affirm the right of parents to raise their children. Several Texas legislators have put forward a constitutional amendment to “enshrine the right to direct the upbringing of their child, including the right to direct the care, custody, control, education, moral and religious training and the medical care of the child.”

Equality Texas opposes the constitutional amendment proposal as another “threat” to the LGBTQ community. Their bill tracker also shows their opposition to legislation that:

  • Allows doctors to refuse to do sex change surgeries.
  • Requires parents to be informed about all activities and materials used in their child’s classroom.
  • Requires teachers to notify parents of changes in a student’s physical, mental or emotional health.
  • Requires book publishers that provide books to schools to label them with a content rating, like movies do.
  • Requires parents to provide consent for all non-textbook instruction involving violence, nudity, profanity, illegal substance use or sexual content.
  • Requires “drag shows,” where men dress up like women and dance provocatively, to be defined as “sexually oriented” businesses.

Their opposition to school materials and library books is telling. Anyone who doubts whether parents should be monitoring them more closely in our public schools should take a look at the bestselling “Gender Queer,” which has been found in dozens of Texas school libraries. It’s clearly inappropriate for kids.

As for men playing women’s sports, broad majorities of Texans and Americans continue to oppose it. Women sports advocates won that battle in Texas in the last legislative session for high schools and legislation to protect women’s sports in colleges and universities has been proposed this session.

Finally, defining “drag shows” as “sexually oriented” businesses would hopefully make it clear that they do not belong in public schools or public libraries, regardless of what a couple of City Council members in Dallas think.

Large majorities of Americans believe that parents should be able to direct their children’s lives—particularly when it comes to sensitive topics like sexuality—without being overridden by public schools. Equality Texas disagrees and it is trying to convince Texans that to think otherwise is somehow a “threat” to the LGBTQ community.

Some Texans have religious convictions regarding gay people, which was reflected in the recent Republican State Convention platform plank, but in this heavily libertarian state most Texans are “live and let live.” The majority support gay marriage. But no thinking Texan supports allowing a child to determine whether they get a sex change operation or take puberty blockers, whether pornography and drag shows should be allowed in public schools and whether men and boys should be allowed to play in women and girls sports.

To overcome that broad consensus of common sense, Equality Texas and other LGBTQ advocates must convince the LG&B community that they are under attack even though they are not. That’s why we can expect more screaming headlines this session.