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Family of transgender 8-year-old takes on Texas governor

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The Bryant family, Rebekah, Sunny, Bodhi and Chet -- Sunny, 8, may take hormonal treatment when she reaches adolescence, her parents say./AFP
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Mar 12, 2022 - 10:37 AM

HOUSTON — Standing in front of a half-American, half-rainbow flag outside her home, Rebekah Bryant is outraged by a Texas order that considers medical hormonal treatments for transgender minors to be a crime.

Her transgender 8-year-old, named Sunny, might take hormonal treatment when she reaches adolescence, Bryant says, to prevent her body from going through male puberty.

“They want to take away her future rights to any kind of medical care,” said the 38-year-old mother, watching over her kids as they gathered eggs from their chicken coop.

In February, Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, directed his Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) to “conduct a prompt and thorough investigation” into instances of minors receiving “so-called ‘sex change’ procedures.”

He added that if any doctors, nurses and teachers failed to report cases of these “abusive procedures,” they could face criminal liability.

The threat did not go unnoticed.

Last week, the largest pediatric hospital in the country, the Houston-based Texas Children’s Hospital, announced it had “paused hormone-related prescription therapies” to protect its “healthcare professionals and impacted families from potential criminal legal ramifications.”

The DFPS has already launched investigations into parents of transgender children, although a Texas judge on Friday issued a temporary injunction blocking Abbott’s order.

Multiple local prosecutors have also said they will not file charges under the governor’s order, which they argue is illegal.

President Joe Biden has come out against Abbott’s stance, saying that the Texas government’s “discriminatory actions put children’s lives at risk.”

“Children, their parents, and their doctors should have the freedom to make the medical decisions that are best for each young person — without politicians getting in the way,” said the president.

‘More time’ to decide 

Dozens of bills have already been debated in the Texas legislature that would define “gender-affirming” treatments as child abuse, or block doctors’ ability to prescribe such procedures.

Fed up, the Bryant family decided a year ago to publicize their anger, and travelled to the Texas Capitol in Austin to plead with lawmakers to stop.

They have since spoken out at length to advocate against Republican attempts to restrict transgender treatments.

An official legal opinion published last month by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton claimed that “there is insufficient medical evidence available to demonstrate that discontinuing the medication resumes a normal puberty process.”

In his view, that can cause “mental or emotional injury to a child” and therefore constitute child abuse.

The puberty blockers treatment that the legislators oppose is not prescribed by doctors until adolescence.

Sunny, who turns nine in April, “doesn’t need any medical intervention at the moment,” her mother said. “All she needs is acceptance.”

Bryant is worried that if Sunny has to go through male puberty, and still decides to transition, the process would become much more complicated.

“Those changes, the forehead, the Adam’s apple, the facial hair… She can’t reverse that without dangerous, expensive surgeries,” she said, adding that “puberty blockers give a child a lot more time (to decide).”

‘Proud to be trans’ 

Coming from a conservative South Carolina background, Bryant’s husband, Chet, has also reluctantly embraced his family’s new-found celebrity.

“I definitely don’t love it, for sure,” he said.

“Why am I telling you about whether or not my child wears a dress or wears pants? Like, who cares?” he said in a mild but determined tone, sitting in his living room.

“That matters because of politics.”

His wife agrees: “Our Republican folks know that they can rile up their base, they can get them to the polls,” if they make voters think that “they’re saving these poor children.”

Republicans might think that transgender issues can be a successful “wedge piece” to keep their party in power, Bryant says, “but Texas is turning slowly.”

Democrat Sylvia Garcia, one of Houston’s representatives to Congress, told AFP she thinks the Texas governor and attorney general made their announcements purely for political gain.

“The opinion was issued… two weeks before the primary,” she noted. “The Attorney General is in a highly contested race.”

“He’s now in a runoff, he did not win. So I suspect he’ll probably try to do even more damage and continue this rhetoric, continue this hateful campaign,” she said.

The Texas governor and attorney general’s offices did not respond to interview requests by AFP.

Bryant says that their family has only received support in their personal and professional interactions.

Sunny sits happily on her bed, her long hair touching her shoulders.

“I don’t really feel scared the way people look at me,” she said.

“I feel good and proud to be trans.”

Garcia, who supports Sunny’s stance, said that “if she is doing this and being such a strong voice for children all over the state and the nation, imagine what she’s going to be able to do when she reaches her full potential.”

“I hope that Abbott and Paxton are ready for that,” she added.

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