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ACLU, families rally in Austin in support of transgender kids

Recently, Gov. Greg Abbott directed the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate gender-affirming care for transgender youth as child abuse.

AUSTIN, Texas — Local community organizations held a rally Wednesday to show unity for transgender kids and their families.

The rally comes after the ACLU, ACLU of Texas and Lambda Legal asked a Texas court to block the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) from investigating parents who work with medical professionals to provide their children with gender-affirming care.

Representatives from Equality Texas, ACLU, ACLU of Texas, Lambda Legal Texas Freedom Network (TFN) and others gathered at the Travis County Courthouse for the rally.

RELATED: ACLU, Lambda Legal sue to block Texas from investigating parents of transgender children

For more background on the ACLU lawsuit, click here.

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"I never thought I would live to see the day where people at the highest positions of power in Texas would actively attack innocent children and, in the process, disrupt the loving homes of families who are trying to do right by their kids," Ricardo Martinez, Equality Texas CEO, said.

Martinez called the actions of Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton "unconscionable" and "unforgivable." He said the directive issued to DFPS is causing irreparable damage to Texans across the state.

"Paxton and Abbott do not scare us and will never separate us," Val Benavidez, TFN executive director, said. "Texans deserve so much better than ego-centric leaders who don't care about the children who call Texas home. Our message to them is loud and clear: transgender children are a blessing and we will fight back against your cursed views."

TFN Director of Programs Marti Bier read a letter on behalf of a parent of a transgender child. The family said in the letter that they could not attend due to "fear for their family." The letter read: 

"I can't be here today to speak because my family is scared and worried that speaking publicly could lead to a criminal investigation. That sounds outlandish, but it is the reality for many Texas families. We began the process of leaving Texas last year after the hearing for SB 1646. We will be gone soon to a state with explicit protections for trans kids and adults. We are leaving behind our friends, family and community. We are leaving behind the city where my husband and I have both been raised and where we started our family. We are leaving behind careers. We are leaving the home we thought we'd raise our children to adulthood in. Our family never imagined that we would move so far away, and certainly never imagined to become political targets in our own state. It has taken a year of planning and significant resources to do this. We have left feeling fortunate to at least have the means to flee our home and the ability to protect our child from our own government. So many families do not have the ability to leave, and no one should ever be faced with the difficult decision to uproot their life to protect their children in America. We are incredibly thankful to the families who will stay and continue to fight this, but leaving is the only choice for our family. We are choosing to grieve the loss of our home instead of the loss of our child. Gov. Abbott and Ken Paxton have said that standard best practices of pediatrics is outlined by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association are child abuse. Our experience is the opposite. This standard of care is life-saving, essential medical care. I'm certain without it, I would have lost a child to suicide. As it is, I worry that we have not left soon enough. My child is abused, but not by me. My child is abused by the Republicans in this state that have made transgender children the center of a culture war they never signed up for. The Texas Republican Party has made attacking transgender children a priority instead of focusing on the very real problems our state faces. This is a political fight and our children are the casualties."

The rally hits home for Adri Perez, policy and advocacy strategist for ACLU of Texas and a member of the transgender community.

"We can't take kids out of loving and supporting homes. That is wrong. I don't know what else to say about it. Anybody who's a parent, who has ever been a parent, knows that the best thing that they can do is support and love their child. And what they need to do is listen to their kids when they tell them who they are," said Perez.

Perez, who came out at 17 years old, said they want to be a voice for the voiceless, as many transgender kids are currently living in fear of speaking out because their parents could be removed from their home. 

Fiona Dawson, a local filmmaker who identifies as bisexual, said this has been an ongoing fight but she's not giving up. 

"It's not just a ripple effect on families and children. This is a whole tsunami against kids and against adults who really come to understand their gender identity in a way that's different from the label that they were given at birth. I think we just really need to come to understand who we are as human beings and so that we won't let politicians take this and make it an issue and attack people just for not conforming to what society says they should be," explained Dawson.  

Later Wednesday afternoon, a judge in Austin ruled that the State of Texas may not – at least for now – enforce actions targeting parents of a transgender teen. Judge Amy Clark Meachum set a hearing on the matter for March 11 and will determine the validity of Gov. Abbott's order.  

And, on Tuesday, the Travis County Commissioners Court unanimously approved a resolution proclaiming support for the rights of families, parents and transgender children.

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