Sunday, February 25

Transgender children, families rally outside Texas Capitol, Governor’s Mansion

AUSTIN — More than 200 people showed up on Gov. Greg Abbott’s doorstep Sunday with a message: Leave transgender children alone.

The rally dubbed “Trans Kids Cry for HELP!” was a colorful, ebullient and at times indignant response to Abbott’s order telling Child Protective Services to investigate the families of transgender minors receiving certain medical treatments. The state has opened at least nine abuse probes in response, with the family of one trans teenager suing to block the directive.

Tracy and Matt, a couple who declined to give their last name for fear of investigation, came to the rally from nearby Schertz to show support for their 12-year-old transgender son.

“We came for our son, who was too scared,” Tracy said.

While they’re concerned about being targeted by the state, the parents said they would not be pressured to change the care they’ve sought for him. “If they come to our door, we’re going to fight,” Tracy said.

1/10Attendees hold signs and carry flags as they listen to a speaker during the “Trans Kids Cry For Help” rally outside the Texas Governor’s Mansion in Austin, Texas, Sunday, March 13, 2022.(Elias Valverde II / Staff Photographer)

Abbott issued his order on the heels of a nonbinding opinion from Attorney General Ken Paxton, who interpreted the state’s child abuse law to include certain types of gender-affirming medical treatments for minors. The governor also warned those who may come into contact with trans kids, like teachers and doctors, that it’s a crime to fail to report child abuse.

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The order has sowed fear among parents, but left those tasked with implementing it with many questions. Lawmakers last year failed to pass a bill that would have codified gender-affirming care as abuse in state law, and opponents say Abbott was acting outside of his authority when he issued this order.

On Friday, a state district court judge overseeing the lawsuit challenging the state put abuse investigations on hold, but Paxton immediately appealed the ruling and said his move would allow these probes to continue unabated.

Organizers said the rally was purposefully joyful, a raucous showing of love and acceptance meant to oppose the terror and uncertainty Abbott’s recent directive has thrust upon families with trans children. The event attracted attendees of all ages — from young children with their parents to LGBTQ elders — to the parking lot just outside of the Governor’s Mansion opposite the state Capitol.

Kids wearing trans- and rainbow-pride flags as capes ran around under the warm afternoon sun, while adults held signs that proclaimed “this teacher will not comply” and “Abbott is a useless clownish bully.”

In front of a set of stairs leading up to the mansion, where speakers gave testimonials and the recordings of anonymous trans kids telling their stories spilled out of a huge loudspeaker, two transgender Texans stood silent vigil.

One held a sign with the words “God’s plan” emblazoned on the blue, pink and white of the transgender pride flag.

More than 100 people gathered at a public hearing of the Department of Family and Protective...

The rally at times took on a decidedly political tone, with speakers urging voters to back Abbott’s Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke and volunteers helping attendees register to vote. With South by Southwest kicking off this weekend, the event also featured a number of celebrity speakers.

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Author and nonbinary activist Alok Vaid-Menon, who is from College Station, told the transgender Texans in the audience to turn away from politicians who question their existence and toward each other for support.

“The reason that they hunt us is because we love. It’s not because we’re insufficient. It’s not because we’re broken. It’s not because we’re faulty,” Vaid-Menon said. “It’s because we template a form of loving looking and living that it’s so revolutionary, transcendent, miraculous, spectacular.”

“The only way they can relate is by disappearing us from the face of this earth and yet we still are here. We remain here, and we’ve been here century after century, decade after decade, policy after policy. We remain here and why? Why do we remain here because we love them. More than they could ever hate us,” Vaid-Menon added.

A half-dozen individuals from Alex Jones Infowars, a far right conspiracy theory website based in Austin, at times attempted to grab attention from the rally’s speakers. The rally attendees created a human wall in response, blocking Infowars host Owen Shroyer and a few other men with bullhorns from freely disrupting the gathering.

State troopers at times physically separated rallygoers and Shroyer, who was charged in connection with the Jan. 6 riot on the US Capitol.

The Rev. Remington Olivia Johnson, a Presbyterian minister and nurse who emceed the event, reminded transgender Texans and their families and friends that Texas is their home, too, regardless of the vitriol some may point their way.

“We gather here to remind one another that we are resilient, we are powerful and we are full of righteous anger. We gather here to raise up the voices of the transgender children who are in need of our protection,” said Johnson, a trans woman. “This is our state. This is our time, this is our space.”

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