It’s been a “when it rains, it pours” kind of few weeks, beginning with Greg Abbott‘s directive to the Director of Child Protective Services giving his opinion that gender-affirming treatment for trans kids is abusive.
Before we could catch our breath—it really felt like a blow to the gut—the Florida Senate passed a schools bill that opponents have dubbed “Don’t Say Gay.” The bill, in part, mandates that schools and teachers cannot develop or present any lesson plans for K-3 students that discuss anything LGBTQ. And then Idaho piles on, with their House of Representatives approving legislation that, if enacted, would make it a felony to provide gender care to trans youth, including hormones or hormone blockers. Idaho HB675 also makes it a felony to take children outside of the state to receive such care. (It does not, and cannot, make it a felony for parents to move their children out of state.)
Each of these measures carries with it the expectation that “mandatory reporters” will turn in the names of parents and any others who assist trans children in seeking treatment, or it appears, who even allow the children to pursue nonmedical gender affirmation such as dressing in line with their identity or changing their names or pronouns.
I want to make sure you understand something here. You may not be concerned about being a mandatory reporter in Texas if you’re not a teacher, a social worker, doctor, pastor, etc. You may believe you are not being told to turn in your neighbor, sister, best friend, or anyone else for affirming trans kids’ identities. But you are. In Texas, the law requires anyone with knowledge of suspected child abuse or neglect to report it to the appropriate authorities. This mandatory reporting applies to all individuals and is not limited to teachers or health care professionals.
That’s why the governor’s directive is so damnable. He has put in writing that gender-affirming care for trans kids is abuse, and therefore, we are all mandated to report all gender-affirming care for trans kids. We are being told to turn in our family, neighbors, and friends who are caring for and loving their trans children.
Some of us might choose to hold the whole matter at a distance. We know where we stand, and we stand with trans kids and their families. We don’t need to get involved beyond privately voicing our support. We’ve done it before in other instances, with other laws. We did it for years with Texas anti-sodomy laws, didn’t we? It wasn’t until 2003, in Lawrence v. Texas, when the U.S. Supreme Court said that Texas anti-sodomy laws were unconstitutional. We weren’t turning each other in before that, were we?
But still. It’s no simple thing to ignore or defy a voice of authority.
I found something several years ago that helped me navigate through a similar situation and still feel like I was acting with integrity and faithfulness. It’s from Sister Anne Montgomery, RSCJ:
“Civil disobedience is, traditionally, the breaking of a civil law to obey a higher law, sometimes with the hope of changing the unjust civil law. … But we should speak of such actions as divine obedience, rather than civil disobedience. The term ‘disobedience’ is not appropriate because any law that does not protect and enhance human life is no real law.”
I hope that her words can bring you some comfort, some inspiration in a time like this. I hope you’ll take this quote, write it down, stick it in your back pocket, put it on the dashboard of your car, send it to someone who needs it, or maybe even post it to your own social media accounts.
If the matter doesn’t seem to impact you personally, if you don’t know any trans kids or the adults who love them, I hope you won’t choose silence or disengage. This isn’t theoretical, it’s happening, and it’s terrifying.
I also hope that if you’re feeling alone, if you can’t find the supportive people and organizations that you need, you will reach out to upRising. We can offer our support and can connect you with other resources. You do not have to be alone at a time like this. There are many of us who are like-minded and committed to you.
It’s not time to give up. Just keep loving the kids.
Always in hope,