Until last Monday, I was feeling really good. The journey I’ve been on to loving my body has been continuous, and this month, I got a gym membership, attempted to limit my screen time, and listened when my body said it needed rest.
After a string of stressful weeks—due to transphobia from old acquaintances, dysphoria due to my top surgery scars, and *points at the state of the world* — I was finally feeling good.
Then Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton published a statement calling parents of trans youth child abusers if they choose to give them gender- affirming care. One day later, Governor Greg Abbott released a letter in support of this (wrong) opinion.
Even when anti-trans bills do not make it into the law, they leave a mark on our culture.
It’s as if all twelve months that I spent re-regulating, telling my body that it was no longer in danger, vanished within hours. I — a Black trans adult born, raised, and living in Texas—know that there’s always a target on my back, but the ways in which trans youth have become collateral damage here is vile.
While the governor later issued an injunction to stop child protective services from actually taking trans youth away from their families, the cultural impact of this moment is lasting. Even when anti-trans bills do not make it into the law, they leave a mark on our culture. They send a message about what this state thinks about trans kids. They give everyday people permission to similarly mistreat our community.
I started my transition in April 2020 at 24 years old. If I had family and social support that would have supported me transitioning earlier, it would have saved me years of dysphoria. It would have made it easier to keep those thoughts that I didn’t fit in, or that something was wrong with me, at bay.
So much of my youth was riddled with self-doubt and shame. Going through a puberty that didn’t feel synonymous with my personhood, being expected into performing gender norms that didn’t feel natural to me, and having no language for what I was feeling left me thinking that I was alone. You could see this heaviness in my body. These days, I feel much lighter, but I wonder constantly about how much happiness I missed out on due to systemic transphobia.
Offering trans kids support in their homes isn’t child abuse; it’s life-saving work. If someone, anyone in my childhood affirmed me, I would’ve spent so many more days without mental and physical turmoil. Suggesting that youth can’t know what they want—when I knew I wasn’t a girl from at least five years old—is disgusting to me. Trans youth have needs, and agency, like everyone else. And they should be able to have those things anywhere.
When the news surfaced about what was happening in Texas, many people outside of the state suggested that trans folks just leave Texas. I’m not sure that folks know, but even if that was the goal, trans people are disenfranchised no matter where we go. And who has the money, resources, and time to pack up their entire life and move it elsewhere on a whim? Who besides rich, privileged folks? Like many others, I have lived, loved, lost, and everything else on this soil, in the Lone Star state. People have property and connection to this in ways that can’t be fathomed by people not from here.
If we left, we’d be leaving behind the many organizations, collectives, and mutual aid networks working 10-12 hour days at the Capitol to see this state for what it could be. Leaving would mean even less support for trans kids in this fight.
Trans people have taken care of each other for centuries. Through chosen family homes, informal group chats, and other networks, we have always cared for each other.
Trans people have taken care of each other for centuries. Through chosen family homes, informal group chats, and other networks, we have always cared for each other. Parents of trans youth wanting to add to this care should not be punishable by law; the notion that it should be says less about the parents and more about the right’s toxic beliefs around familial love and care.
All of Abbott’s efforts to make this state hostile towards me won’t make me leave. Besides the fact that this is the only state I’ve ever lived in, I refuse to give up on the only state I’ve ever lived in. And I don’t want to give up on this fight. Not yet, and not now.
Right now, Equality Texas, Transgender Education Network of Texas, LGBTQIA+ Centers in Texas colleges and cities, and countless other organizations and leaders need our support. If, like me, you are staying put, please make yourself useful. And if you’re not here in Texas, do what you can to lend a hand. We’ve got a foundation to rebuild.