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Photography Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona

This is what it’s like to be a trans teen in Texas right now

‘Weak, worthless, frustrated, and disrespected’: Dazed speaks to trans teens about the proposed plans to criminalise the parents of trans children

Last week, Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered the state’s child protection agency to begin investigating parents of transitioning transgender children, after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton wrote an opinion arguing that gender transition procedures constitute child abuse under Texas state law.

“Because the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services is responsible for protecting children from abuse, I hereby direct your agency to conduct a prompt and thorough investigation of any reported instances of these abusive procedures in the State of Texas,” Abbott’s letter said. He also added that “doctors, nurses, and teachers” who fail to “report” transitioning children would also face criminal penalties. Abbott’s order follows a disturbing rise in attacks on the rights of trans kids in the US.

16-year-old Bunni is a trans teenager living in Texas. Speaking to Dazed, he says that he feels “weak, worthless, frustrated, and disrespected.”

“Greg Abbott has proved he doesn't care about our wellbeing. He’s hurting kids who aren’t mentally, physically, or emotionally well,” he says. “Why should he care so much about trans kids – who haven’t even done anything to him? Why should he criminally charge anyone who even gets into contact with us? It’s not fair and it’s not fair to my family who will have to suffer financially because of this.”

15-year-old Noah* lives in Texas. Like Bunni, he too is also in the process of transitioning. “I’m distraught,” he says. “Greg Abbott’s actions are putting me and people I know in danger. It’s honestly very disheartening to see [trans kids’] rights stamped on and driven to suicide on the count of bigotry.”

Writing for The Nation, trans rights activist Chase Strangio criticised Abbott’s order and highlighted the poor mental health outcomes for trans youth who don’t receive gender-affirming care. Gender dysphoria, the diagnosis that many transgender people have, can be serious when untreated. It results in clinically significant depression and other negative impacts flowing from the experience of having a gender that does not align with one’s sex assigned at birth.”

Research backs this up: in December 2021, a study conducted by The Trevor Project found that “gender-affirming hormone therapy is significantly related to lower rates of depression, suicidal thoughts, and suicide attempts among transgender and nonbinary youth.” Plus, major medical organisations, including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Paediatrics, and the American Psychological Association, have also spoken out on the importance of trans children receiving gender-affirming healthcare.

“[Texas Governor] Greg Abbott has proved he doesn't care about our wellbeing. He’s hurting kids who aren’t mentally, physically, or emotionally well”

In his letter, Abbott singled out “reassignment surgeries that cause sterilization, mastectomies,” and “removals of otherwise healthy body parts” – but the reality of treating gender dysphoria is far more complex than this. In the US, trans minors are not supposed to undergo gender-affirming genital surgery. Instead, they are usually offered fully reversible puberty blockers and emotionally supported through their social transition. It’s a far cry from the kinds of procedures Abbott mentions.

Strangio went on to say that Abbott’s announcement was characteristic of Republicans seeking to dictate how American families should operate. “The same politicians touting small government and parental rights are now advancing severe intrusions into the family,” he says. “Because ultimately this is not about small government or parental rights, but about control—control over people’s bodies, autonomy, families, and survival.”

“My identity is worth any kind of societal harm that comes my way,” Noah says. “I would just like for people to hear me, to hear us. We have nothing but a voice because we can’t vote.”

“I won't be changing who I am,” Bunni adds. “If Greg Abbott is so offended by my very being, he should be the one to move.”

*Name has been changed