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Report: SXSW denounces Gov. Abbott's order to treat gender-affirming care as child abuse

A spokesperson for the festival said the governor's directive puts transgender children in harm's way.

AUSTIN, Texas — Organizers of Austin's South by Southwest festival (SXSW) have reportedly denounced Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's recent order requiring the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) to treat gender-affirming care for transgender children as child abuse.

A spokesperson for SXSW told KVUE's media partners at the Austin American-Statesman that the festival condemns the action.

"SXSW stands against discriminatory legislation and supports the LGBTQ+ community," the spokesperson told the Statesman on Wednesday. "The governor’s latest directive puts trans children in harm's way once again, and we unequivocally condemn this action."

The statement comes just weeks before SXSW returns to Austin. This year's event will be SXSW's first in-person festival since 2019.

Throughout the years, SXSW has spotlighted LGBTQ rights activists and programming as part of its lineup. This year is no exception. "Queer Eye" star Jonathan Van Ness and writer-artist ALOK will appear at a March 14 featured session. A March 11 panel titled "Addressing Our Transgender Health Crisis" will look at the ways health systems and policymakers can work together to "make sure at-risk transgender patients receive the care they need and deserve," according to the panel's description.

According to the Statesman, SXSW issued a similar statement in fall 2021, when the Texas Legislature passed laws banning most abortions and placing restrictions on voting. The Statesman said that SXSW organizers noted at the time that they had no plans to leave Austin over disagreements with the laws.

SXSW reiterated that stance to the Statesman on Wednesday, saying, "We are often asked to leave the state when issues arise, but Texas is our home. It is a state where the major population centers are Democratic, and Austin has always stood for progressive values. Moving SXSW out of Texas would damage Austin more than it would the state."

The statement went on to say that, "Austin is part of SXSW’s DNA, and we intend to stay and fight, and to continue to use our platform to further the progression of human rights."

Abbott's directive came one day after Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a written opinion defining gender-affirming care for transgender children as child abuse under Texas laws.

The DFPS said it will follow Texas law as explained by Paxton, but there are not currently any pending investigations of child abuse involving procedures as mentioned in Paxton's opinion. The DFPS said if such cases should arise, they will be investigated under the existing policies of Child Protective Investigations.

SXSW 2022 will run from Friday, March 11, through Sunday, March 20.

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