Statement Regarding Governor Greg Abbott’s Attack on Gender-Affirming Health CareFebruary 26, 2022
On Tuesday, February 22, 2022, Greg Abbott, Governor of Texas, sent a letter calling for the Commissioner of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to “investigate” cases of gender-affirming care for youth after Attorney General Ken Paxton declared that “sex-change procedures constitute child abuse under existing Texas law.” Governor Abbott’s letter directs the department to investigate parents and providers of “abusive gender transitioning procedures,” including commonly provided hormone treatments and puberty blockers. The apparent aim of this action by the governor is to trigger vigilante-style accusations, as well as reporting requirements for schoolteachers, counselors, and other mandatory reporters, including members of the clergy. Further, the governor and his allies, who are relying on faulty science, religious misinformation, fear mongering, and a gullible general public, show that they care nothing for the health and wellbeing of transgender youth who are the target of this misbegotten directive.
The Carpenter Initiative on Gender, Sexuality, and Justice of Brite Divinity School decries this stigmatization of trans people, including youth, by targeting not only the trans children themselves, but also any one who supports them. Besides being a cynical manipulation of news media to benefit the governor and attorney general in next week’s contested primary election, this directive will further the chaos and overload of Family and Protective Services, and drive a wedge between helping professionals, caregivers, and clergy, and trans and non-binary children and families who face public scapegoating—and now, threatened legal consequences—for seeking vital mental, spiritual, and physical care for their loved ones.
There is no legitimate religious or theological justification for scapegoating anyone, including transgender and non-binary children, their parents and guardians, and the healthcare professionals, caregivers, and clergy who support them. In fact, launching the threat of thinly-veiled legal penalties at vulnerable children, characterizing them as ‘sinful’ by innuendo, is the most crass form of theological malpractice and psychological projection we know of in American life. Transgender people are equally and fully created in the image and the likeness of God along with all other members of the human family. Calling caregiving ‘child abuse’ is flagrantly untrue and wrong, flying in the face of well-founded research. The sin lies instead upon those whose actions cause stress, depression, oppression, and suffering to others because of the fact of their existence.
The Carpenter Initiative on Gender, Sexuality, and Justice fully supports the public statement issued on February 23, 2022, by Brian Klosterboer, staff attorney for the ACLU of Texas: “The law is clear that parents, guardians, and doctors can provide transgender youth with treatment in accordance with prevailing standards of care.” Klosterboer continues, “Any parent or guardian who loves and supports their child and is taking them to a licensed healthcare provider is not engaging in child abuse.”
Brite’s Carpenter Initiative exists to work for a world transformed by God’s love, mercy, and justice. We stand with transgender and non-binary children and youth, and with those who support and care for them. We oppose both the words and the intent of Governor Abbott’s ill-conceived directive of February 22.
The Reverend Dr. Stephen V. Sprinkle
Director of the Carpenter Initiative on Gender, Sexuality, and Justice
Brite Divinity School
Fort Worth, Texas