Westwood Students Voice Opinions on Gov. Abbott’s Transgender Youth Order


TX Gov. Abbott recently issued a directive instructing the Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate parents of transgender children receiving gender-affirming medical care. Graphic by Hadley Norris

On Tuesday, Feb. 22, Texas Governor Greg Abbott wrote a letter followed by an opinion by Attorney General Ken Paxton to the Department of Family and Protective Services, urging them to investigate parents of transgender children who receive gender-affirming medical care, as it might be considered “child abuse”. Abbott added that all licensed professionals in direct contact with the children such as doctors, nurses, and teachers would be mandated to report any such cases, or they could potentially face criminal penalties. Although this order hasn’t been signed into state law, it nonetheless drew widespread controversy and polarized reactions.

Debates in Texas regarding trans healthcare existed long before Abbott’s order. Many conservatives voiced strong claims opposing the care trans children receive, despite many healthcare officials proving them to be false, as the medical care trans kids receive is not irreversible. In November, Texas’s only multidisciplinary clinic for trans youth, the GENder Education and Care Interdisciplinary Support system, was officially closed by the University of Texan Southwestern Medical Center and Children’s Medical Center Dallas, as it was targeted by such claims. 

Meanwhile, Abbott’s order sparked outrage among Texas’s trans community and allies. The order was denounced by various celebrities, politicians, and organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the head of the American Psychological Association and the White House. One family and a clinical psychologist, who remain anonymous in the media, even went so far as to sue Abbott after being investigated.

Of the 2789 students enrolled at Westwood this year, 112 responded to a survey over their opinions regarding Abbott’s order. 94 students were in opposition, while 15 agreed and 3 remained neutral. The limitations of this survey should be noted, considering many students don’t check their email and some may have been hesitant to share their opinion despite the anonymity. 

A vast majority of the students were vehement in their responses, reflecting Texas’s strong emotions regarding order. When asked why or why not they agree with Abbott’s order, some students stuck to simple “yes” and “no” responses; however, many students responded in long paragraphs describing their concerns. Some students even provided personal stories. 

“Not providing gender-affirming care is extremely abusive. 7/10 trans kids have thought of committing suicide; 4/10 have tried. I’m among that 4,” one student said. “My parents and therapist already know. I did what I did because I came out to my mother (she is now the most supportive person in my life)  as nonbinary (I now identify as a demiboy) and she said that wasn’t real. When I got out of the in-patient facility I was transferred to after getting cleared from the ER, my mom apologized and started calling me by my preferred name and pronouns. She also started doing research and stuff about the LGBTQ+ community. I am on birth control to block my period (I am AFAB [(assigned female at birth)] and I see a gender therapist every couple of months. My mother made that happen. She is not abusive. The abusive parents are the ones who don’t accept their kids and the ones who kick their kids out.”

Other students voiced their opinion in a more condensed format. 

“This order, while perhaps having noble intentions, will only serve to alienate transgender children and teens even more, when the opposite is needed. By portraying the receival of gender-affirming medicare as a problem that needs investigation, this order creates an inhospitable, unnurturing environment for trans children/teens and denies the legitimacy of their transition.”

While the majority of the students argue this order will hurt trans children, others argue that they lack the maturity to make such decisions. 

“Someone who is not old enough to make such an important decision should not be able to make that decision. The parents should be investigated for supporting that decision because it is borderline negligent. If a person is not old enough to get a tattoo they are surely not old enough to change their gender.” 

This particular argument echoed throughout the responses that agreed with Abbott’s order. 

“I believe minors should not be allowed to receive any permanent operations or be put on hormone blockers or any of that. The mind of a child is not developed enough to make those choices. People don’t seem to understand that children just say stuff and do stuff for the sake of saying and doing stuff, these kids couldn’t care less about gender identity or understand how they’ll think in the next 10 years.”

When asked about their initial reaction upon news of the orders, some students described feeling anger, outrage, disgust, and fear. Many of those who agree with the order described feeling indifference, or even joy. 

“I was really scared, because I am openly transgender,” one student in opposition to the order said. “My mom openly talks about me as a transgender child. I was terrified that somebody would report us, and that my parents would get arrested, or that I would be put in the foster system.”

Many believe Abbott’s order may be correlated to the upcoming 2022 Texas gubernatorial election, which will take place in November. 

“My initial reaction was that Abbott is trying to score political points. This sort of boldness seems to have gained acceptance and even popularity among portions of the American electorate in the last several years,” one student wrote. 

The students were also asked if they knew anybody affected by the order. Many answered “no”. On the other hand, some gave in-depth descriptions of the situations of those affected. 

“A lot of my friends and I aren’t cisgender, but some of us have already gone through with changing our names in the system or pursuing medical care. My parents and I had to make a plan on what I need to say in case someone were to pull me out of class to ask why I have two names in my record. It’s scary having to think that legally my therapist would have to report my parents if this [order] were to pass.” one student wrote. 

One student provided a brief anecdote describing an instance in which they believe investing in trans medicare was a mistake. 

“I do not [know anyone affected by the order]. But I do know a person who began ‘gender-affirming’ medical procedures at the age of 19. After a couple of years, this person concluded that they were actually fine with their body/gender identity as it was and they stopped the treatment before any irreversible steps had been taken. I truly wonder if the prevailing trend regarding gender identity issues is sweeping more young people along with it than is warranted.”

Despite being widely criticized, Abbott’s order has caused unease amongst Texas’s transgender community. It is unclear what the directive will translate to in the future; however, the emotions and controversy surrounding it likely endure for years to come.